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Judge: Natalee Holloway legally dead

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - An Alabama judge agreed Thursday to declare Natalee Holloway legally dead, more than six years after the teenager vanished on the Caribbean island of Aruba.

Judge Alan King announced his decision at a hearing Thursday requested by the teen's father, Dave Holloway, who was in court with Beth Holloway, his ex-wife and Natalee's mother. He told the judge in September he believed his daughter had died and he wanted to stop paying her medical insurance and use her college fund for her brother.

Thursday's hearing had been scheduled before a suspect questioned in Holloway's disappearance, Dutchman Joran van der Sloot, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Peru to the 2010 murder of a woman there.

Natalee Holloway disappeared on a high school graduation trip May 30, 2005. She was last seen leaving a bar with van der Sloot. Her body was never found.

One of Dave Holloway's attorneys, J. Mark White, said at Thursday's hearing, "No evidence has been found that Natalee Holloway is alive," reported The Birmingham News.

Dave Holloway said he had expected to hear the judge would declare his daughter dead because he had no doubt about that. "We've been dealing with her death for the last six and a half years," he said.

He added that the judge's order closes one chapter in a long story, but added: "We've still got a long way to go to get justice.

Beth Holloway, Natalee's mom, didn't speak at the hearing, but her lawyer said she supported the request to declare her daughter legally dead, according to The Birmingham News.

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Natalee Holloway of Mountain Brook, Ala. went missing while on a high school graduation trip in Aruba.

Holloway suspect: I killed woman in Peru

On Wednesday, Van der Sloot pleaded guilty to the 2010 murder of Stephany Flores, a 21-year-old woman who died five years to the day after the disappearance of Holloway.

Van der Sloot was arrested twice in the Holloway case but he was never charged due to a lack of evidence. Holloway's family has criticized Dutch authorities for not making more progress in the case.

Van der Sloot has told police he strangled Flores, a skilled poker player and the daughter of a wealthy businessman, after he found her looking at his laptop computer in his hotel room.

The laptop contained emails about Holloway's death.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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