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Aruba jawbone not Natalee Holloway's, prosecutors say

A jawbone with a tooth recently found on a beach in Aruba does not belong to missing Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, the prosecutor's office there said Tuesday.
This undated family photo shows Natalee Holloway of Mountain Brook, Ala. Holloway has been missing since May 30, 2005, when she vanished in Aruba while on a trip with classmates celebrating their high school graduation. Anonymous / ASSOCIATED PRESS
/ Source: NBC News and news services

A jawbone with a tooth recently found on a beach in Aruba does not belong to missing Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, the prosecutor's office on the Dutch Caribbean island said Tuesday.

Forensic examination carried out in the Netherlands "excludes the possibility that the bone material found in Aruba is that of Natalee Holloway," the office said in a statement obtained by NBC News.

The jawbone is human, though it is unclear who it belongs to and whether efforts will be made to identify the person, the statement said.

Dutch investigators compared the lone tooth on the bone with dental records supplied by Holloway's family.

"Using the dental records of Natalee Holloway, such as the location of wisdom teeth and fillings, a comparison was made with the jawbone recovered on Aruba," it said. "Based on these comparisons it could be excluded that the investigated bone material and molar came from Natalee Holloway."

A tourist recently discovered the bone on a beach, and Aruba prosecutors had asked forensic scientists in the Netherlands to analyze it. Despite this latest setback in the case, prosecutors said the case "retains the constant attention from law enforcement on the island."

But John Kelly, an attorney for Holloway's mother, Beth Twitty, hinted that the media apparently found out first about the test results.

"Beth accepts the forensic conclusions, is emotionally exhausted from the inexplicably long wait and deeply disappointed in the time and manner in which she learned of the results," he said in a statement. "Apparently Aruban prosecutors were more sensitive to media concerns than the painful vigil of a mother."

It is unclear how exactly Twitty learned of the results. Family spokeswoman Sunny Tillman did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The announcement once again eliminates a hope of evidence about the fate of the Mountain Brook, Ala., student who disappeared while on a high school graduation trip in 2005, when she was 18.

Aruba's attorney general, Taco Stein, told The Associated Press that officials do not know how old the bone is or where it might have come from.

"It's anybody's guess," he said. "We're a small island."

He speculated that it could even have come from nearby Venezuela or Curacao, given the intense hurricane season that churned the ocean.

Stein said authorities will check with police to see if the jawbone might belong to a missing person or the victim of an unsolved murder, but he said it was unlikely because Aruba only has a handful of those types of cases.

Holloway's parents, Dave Holloway and Beth Twitty, did not respond to calls for comment.

Family attorney Vinda de Sousa told The Associated Press that the family might issue a statement later.

Earlier in the day, Carol Standifer, who said she is a close friend of the teen's mother, told CBS's "The Early Show" that if the bone did belong to the missing teen, "there will be some semblance of closure."

Holloway was last seen leaving a bar with Dutchman Joran Van der Sloot, the prime suspect in her disappearance, on the final night of her trip.

Case retains 'constant attention'
Aruba prosecutors have repeatedly said they lack evidence to charge Van der Sloot, who is currently in jail in Peru, accused of killing a 21-year-old woman last May 30 — five years to the day after Holloway's disappearance. He has denied killing Holloway.

U.S. law enforcement officials have charged Van der Sloot with trying to extort money from Holloway's mother to reveal the location of Holloway's body.

As for identifying the remains, the prosecutors' statement noted that it was difficult to extract a quality DNA sample, as the bone had been exposed to weather and only a small amount of genetic material was present.

Because comparison of dental records ruled out the possibility that the bone was Holloway's, the lab halted further DNA testing.

"There is still a possibility that the molar from the jawbone could be used for further efforts to generate a DNA profile," the statement said. "However this follow-up study of said molar would inhibit future research into identifying the person from whom the bone originates."

The prosecutors will decide how to proceed in light of that information, the statement said.