Natalee Holloway

When shards of bone were discovered in Aruba a few years ago, Dave Holloway hoped against hope that DNA testing would prove the remains were of his daughter, Natalee Holloway, who went missing in 2005 while on a high school graduation trip to the Caribbean island. It would be a sad, disturbing result, but at least it would be an answer in a case that remains largely composed of questions.

It took a year and a half of working under the radar with the help of an informant to locate the spot where the remains were found, behind a house that had been previously mentioned over the course of the sporadically eventful investigation.

"We've had a number of disappointments and I've put up a wall trying to find something that's not gonna disappoint me," Holloway said on Today in August 2017. "And when we determined that these remains were human, I was shocked, and I know that there's a possibility this could be someone else, and I'm just trying to wait and see."

But that October it was revealed that the mitochondrial DNA wasn't a match to a sample provided by Natalee's mother, Beth Holloway. The bones didn't belong to Natalee.

Another dead end.

"Out of the four individual bone samples only one was found to be human," forensic scientist Jason Kolowski, who tested the samples, explained to Oxygen, which chronicled Dave Holloway's journey with private investigator T.J. Ward as they followed what felt at the time to be their most promising lead in years.

"We don't know if the person is male or female," Kolowski added. "We don't know how old that person is. We don't know how long that person has been dead."

For the past 14 years, the investigation into Holloway's disappearance has carried on in fits and spurts, with light occasionally appearing at the end of the tunnel, only to be snuffed out at the first whiff of closure. In the meantime, books have been written, Lifetime made two movies about the case, news-magazine shows have covered it top to bottom, and every theory in the book has been floated—including that Natalee is still alive, or at least was for years after the events of May 30, 2005, transpired. Whatever those events were, exactly.

Despite all the media attention and so many law-enforcement hours spent trying to find out what happened, definitive answers have remained out of reach. But numerous times, authorities and Natalee's family seemed to be getting closer.

Natalee Holloway

Natalee Holloway

Holloway Family

Natalee Holloway, Dave Holloway

AP Photo/Courtesy of Beth Twitty

Beth Holloway, George "Jug" Twitty, Natalee Holloway

AP Photo/Rob Carr

Joran van der Sloot, Natalee Holloway

AP Photo/Pedro Famous Diaz

Natalee Holloway

AP Photo/Leslie Mazoch

Dave Holloway, Natalee Holloway


Natalee Holloway

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Joran van der Sloot, Natalee Holloway

AP Photo/Karel Navarro

Beth Twitty Holloway, Natalee Holloway


Natalee Holloway

Natalee Holloway

Joran van der Sloot, Natalee Holloway


Meanwhile, the family of Natalee Holloway has had to do everything in its power not to feel trapped in a different sort of prison.

A judge declared Natalee dead in January 2012—a necessary legal move so Dave Holloway could access $500 he had put into her college fund in order to use the money to pay her younger brother's tuition. He needed a death certificate.

"I guess most people do look at anniversaries, but I still think about it every day,'' Dave, who in addition to his and Beth's son Matthew has two other daughters from his second marriage, told in 2015 as the 10th anniversary of Natalee's disappearance approached. "That's something you'll never get out of your mind.

"The emotional trauma has a way of healing, and a person doesn't realize it until time goes on," he said. "When something comes up significant, you fall back down into that emotional state of trauma. I try to avoid those things as much as I can."

Dave also said, "I look back on it and I wonder how I even made it through. You're always thinking we're going to get an answer quickly and it never comes. I never dreamed it would be 10 years, and we would not have a solid answer."

"I have my answer as to what happened to Natalee, and he's sitting in prison in Peru," Beth Holloway said on Today in 2016. She continued, "Justice is being served for Stephany Flores, thank God. And he is in prison in Peru. But justice has not been served for Natalee."

Beth has credited her faith for helping her accept her loss, and she eventually returned to work as a speech therapist at schools in Cullman County. She also traveled the country speaking publicly about Natalee, grief, her family's journey and how to look out for one's personal safety.

"It's a message of hope, and my definition of hope is that inexplicable empowerment that enables us to move successfully from challenge to resolution with courage," she told B-Metro magazine in 2015. "It's more than just wishful thinking. It is real that there is light at the end of the tunnel. No matter what you're trying to find your way through—It could be loss of a loved one, it could be terminal illness, it could be a financial loss. It's a powerful inspirational message that I share that teaches perseverance and hope and that you can endure."

And in 2014, she and Dave became grandparents when Matthew's daughter, Rylee Ann, was born.

"I love my children, Natalee and Matt, but I didn't know how else I would feel about a grandchild," Beth told B-Metro. "But as soon as I met her I thought, 'Oh. So this is the love that they have for their grandchildren.' It was beautiful."

(E!, Oxygen and NBC are all members of the NBCUniversal family.)

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