- - Thursday, January 12, 2012

ALABAMA

Judge declares Natalee Holloway dead

BIRMINGHAM | An Alabama probate judge on Thursday signed an order declaring Natalee Holloway dead, more than six years after the teenager vanished on the Caribbean island of Aruba.

Judge Alan King announced his decision earlier Thursday at a hearing attended by the missing woman’s divorced parents, David and Beth Holloway.

Mr. Holloway told the judge in September he believed his daughter had died and he wanted to stop payments on her medical insurance and use her $2,000 college fund to help her younger brother. Thursday’s hearing was set before a suspect questioned in Miss Holloway’s disappearance, Dutchman Joran van der Sloot, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Peru to the 2010 murder of a woman in Lima.

Miss Holloway disappeared on a high school graduation trip May 30, 2005. She was last seen leaving a bar with van der Sloot early that day. Her body was never found and the case garnered intense media scrutiny and international attention.

Judge King acted on a petition by Mr. Holloway to have the missing 18-year-old declared dead.

Her mother originally objected, but her lawyer, Charlie DeBardeleben, said she now had no objection. Miss Holloway’s parents were divorced in 1993 and Mrs. Holloway sat in the back row of the courtroom, mostly staring at her hands in her lap during the afternoon hearing. She declined comment when she entered the courtroom.

MICHIGAN

Bridge company owner ordered to jail for contempt

DETROIT | A judge ordered the 84-year-old owner of Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge to jail Thursday for failing to meet court orders on a construction project linking the span to adjacent interstates.

Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards said Manuel Moroun and top lieutenant Dan Stamper will stay in jail until they comply with a 2010 order to get the work going. It’s unclear how long they’ll stay behind bars.

“It is clear that the Detroit International Bridge Co. does not intend to comply with the court orders unless meaningful sanctions are imposed,” Judge Edwards said.

Lawyers for Mr. Moroun and Mr. Stamper asked Judge Edwards to suspend his decision so they could appeal, but the judge declined.

Ken Mogill, lawyer for Mr. Stamper, said the judge was “absolutely wrong” since it is the company, not the men, that was earlier found in contempt.

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