Authorities have closed the investigation into the disappearance of Natalee Holloway and do not have evidence to charge anyone, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The three young men who were last seen with the Alabama teenager have all been notified that they will not be charged, prosecutors said.
"The public prosecutor's office and the police have gone the extra mile and have exhausted all their powers and techniques in order to solve the mystery of the disappearance of the girl," it said.
The three suspects — a Dutch college student and two Surinamese brothers — were seen leaving a bar with Holloway the night she disappeared in May 2005. Police re-arrested them last month in a last-ditch effort to solve the case, but prosecutors said the men did not provide any new information under interrogation.
Holloway's mother, Beth Twitty, was "terribly disappointed" that the case was closed and has been on an emotional roller coaster in recent weeks, said Sunny Tillman of Birmingham, Ala., a spokeswoman for her.
"She was very hopeful the last couple weeks, and she went down there and met with the prosecutor," Tillman said. "He told her face to face that he had new and incriminating evidence and that made her hopeful."
"So now, in light of this today, it's just so perplexing," she said.
An attorney for two of the suspects, brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, said prosecutors presented transcripts of online chat sessions that the suspects had with friends as new evidence.
"They tried to call it new, but it didn't have any incriminating points against our clients," attorney David Kock said. "It's like trying to say the Loch Ness monster exists."
In their statement, prosecutors said they still believe the three were involved in the disappearance, but cannot prove a crime was committed because Holloway's body was never recovered.
A family's hope remains
Prosecutors said they could reopen the case "if new serious evidence were to be found." The statute of limitations is six years for involuntary manslaughter and 12 years for homicide, they said.
Tillman, in a telephone interview, said the possibility of the case being reopened leaves a glimmer of hope for the family, which is now awaiting results from a deep-water search scheduled to begin Tuesday.
"It's quite ironic that the case has been closed on the same day the deep-water search was supposed to start," she said. "It's ironic that first the prosecutor says the case won't be closed until Dec. 31 and then — boom — the day the water search starts, the case is over."
Holloway, of Mountain Brook, Ala., was scheduled to return home with fellow high school classmates celebrating their graduation when she disappeared. She was 18 at the time.
One of the suspects, Joran Van der Sloot, has said he left her alone on a beach the night she vanished but does not know how she vanished.
No trace of Holloway has ever been found despite extensive searches involving hundreds of volunteers, Aruban soldiers, FBI agents and even Dutch F-16 jets with special equipment.
"This whole case was botched from the get-go and it's terribly disappointing that it has come to this," Tillman said.
"There was so much hope and the rug was pulled out from under the family once again," she said. "They pulled the rug out again and again and again and it's just hideous."