The parents of missing Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway are at odds over a petition her father has filed to declare their daughter legally dead. The petition will be heard in probate court in Birmingham today.
UPDATE: The Associated Press reports the judge overseeing the case said he will rule by early next week whether to proceed with the legal steps necessary to declare Natalee Holloway dead. Her father attended the hearing but her mother was notably absent. She is reportedly giving a speech in California, according to the AP.
Beth Holloway, Natalee's mother, opposes the petition brought by her ex-husband Dave Holloway, her lawyer John Q. Kelly said.
"Beth [Holloway] gave birth to and raised Natalee and will always hope and pray for Natalee's safe return," Kelly said. "If Dave seeks closure on such a personal and sensitive matter, it should be respected but not imposed upon Beth in such an adversarial and public manner."
The couple divorced in 1993. Their daughter was 18 years old when she disappeared on May 30, 2005, while on a trip to Aruba to celebrate her high school graduation. Her body has never been found. The case received international media attention and has inspired several books and movies.
Dave Holloway's attorney, Karen Hennecy, said her client wants his daughter declared dead so that his family can have closure.
"This is a normal proceeding for families when a loved one has been missing for an extended period of time," Hennecy said.
Alabama law requires a waiting period of five years before declaring legally dead a person whose body has not been recovered and for whom no death certificate has been issued.
Dave Holloway wrote in a sworn statement that it was his "firm, however, painful, belief that my daughter Natalee is deceased, and not a runaway." She had "no medical issues, psychological issues or family issues," the statement said.
The court documents, which list Natalee Holloway's possessions as worth less than $500, also name Joran van der Sloot as the "primary suspect" in her disappearance.
Natalee Holloway's classmates said they last saw her leaving an Aruban nightclub with van der Sloot, then a 17-year-old Dutch honors student living in Aruba, and his two friends, Surinamese brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe. The three young men were arrested in the case, and all were released without being charged.
Van der Sloot is currently behind bars in Peru, accused of the May 30, 2010, slaying of Stephany Flores. The Peruvian business student was found dead in van der Sloot's hotel room in Lima on June 2 that year. Van der Sloot has been charged with first-degree murder and robbery in the case. If convicted of Flores' murder, he could face 15 to 35 years in prison.
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Alan King will preside over today's hearing, the Associated Press said. While he has the option of issuing an order of presumption of death, state law mandates a second hearing -- after legal notices are published in the local newspaper -- to finalize the decision and declare Natalee Holloway dead.
Despite her opposition to declaring her daughter dead, Beth Holloway recently admitted that she does not think Natalee is still alive. The brutal killing of Flores changed her mind.
"(When) I discovered [the] ferocity in which he murdered Stephany Flores, that put it in perspective for me as to what transpired with Natalee," Holloway said during a May 10 appearance on CBS' "The Early Show."
NATALEE HOLLOWAY CASE PHOTOS