The investigation into the disappearance of Natalee Holloway has officially been closed by Aruban prosecutors, leaving the missing U.S. teen's family disappointed and heartbroken.
Prosecutors dismissed the case against the three main suspects in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, saying they still believe they were involved in her death but can't prove it after 932 days of searching failed to turn up a body.
"They've pushed so hard. They know the answers are there. Someone knows what happened to Natalee and they can't get the answers," Holloway family attorney John Q. Kelly told CBS' The Early Show.
Kelly says that the young men can still be prosecuted if evidence were to surface.
"It was just raising expectations, and it was painful for the parents to go through," Kelly told The Early Show. "Quite frankly, I think it was a dog and pony show."
The decision to end the investigation has been a blow to Natalee's mother, Beth Twitty who has been caught in the wake of the last few weeks' roller coaster of legal maneuvers.
Twitty, is "terribly disappointed" with Tuesday's decision, her spokeswoman said.
"She was very hopeful the last couple weeks and she went down there and met with the prosecutor," Sunny Tillman, the family's spokeswoman, told The Associated Press. "He told her face-to-face that he had new and incriminating evidence, and that made her hopeful."
The three young men were re-arrested last month after prosecutors discovered online chat sessions they hoped would break the case open. But none of the men talked in custody, and without the young American's body, prosecutors said they had no recourse but to close the most notorious missing-person case in the Caribbean.
If the three suspects were put on trial, the lack of evidence "would lead to an acquittal," the Public Prosecutor's Office said in a statement on Tuesday.
"Is there any recourse or is this the end? It's not the end," Kelly told The Early Show. "It's not an active investigation. It is still an investigation."
Moving Holloway into the cold-case files "is a tough burden to bear" for her parents, they acknowledged, but the prosecutors said they had little choice.
"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," the statement read.
Detectives are assigned to review any new information that surfaces in the case, said John Pauly, a communications consultant for the prosecutor's office, in an e-mail sent after the announcement.
"There are detectives assigned to it to review new information and evidence that might come in," the statement said. Pauly could not be reached to elaborate.
Holloway was 18 when she disappeared on May 30, 2005, the last night of a trip with members of her Mountain Brook, Alabama, high school graduating class. She was last seen leaving a bar with the three suspects: Joran van der Sloot and brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, who all lived on this Dutch island off the coast of Venezuela.
Holloway's parents, who divorced years before her disappearance, have pushed hard to find what happened to their daughter - and Americans have followed every development on tabloid TV.
Police, soldiers and hundreds of volunteers combed hillsides and beaches of this 75-square-mile island. Investigators partially drained a pond. Divers searched the sea bed offshore. Dutch F-16 jets equipped with search equipment conducted overflights. Dogs sniffed for a body.
Investigators interviewed hundreds of potential witnesses and arrested - and re-arrested - several suspects.
At times, it seemed Aruba itself was on trial, as some U.S. politicians and journalists assailed its ability to investigate the case.
But the prosecutors' transcripts of the suspects' chats "didn't have any incriminating points," according to David Kock, an attorney for the Kalpoe brothers. The lawyer said it was fanciful to think of the chats as damning.
"It's like trying to say the Loch Ness monster exists," Kock told the AP.
Rosemarie Arnold, attorney for van der Sloot, compared the investigation to the disastrous investigation surrounding an alleged rape of a stripper by three Duke lacrosse players in 2006.
"They get on air and say they have all this evidence, but not enough to prosecute," Arnold told The Early Show. "There was never any evidence, no new evidence and no old evidence simply because Joran had nothing to do with Natalee's disappearance."
The prosecutors said they still believe van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers were involved in Holloway's disappearance. An attorney for van der Sloot said it is unfair for them to say so without filing charges.
"Give this kid his due," attorney Joseph Tacopina said. "He's been incarcerated twice falsely. They've investigated up and down everything in his life."
Van der Sloot, who was re-arrested last month in the Netherlands where he attends college and held for several days, was with his family in Aruba on Tuesday enjoying "a celebratory family event," Tacopina said.
The case was marked by confusion from the start.
The three main suspects first said they dropped Holloway off at her hotel. Two security guards who worked nearby were quickly arrested and then released. After hotel security cameras didn't show a dropoff, van der Sloot said he left her alone on a beach but had no idea how she disappeared.
Prosecutors said the case could still be reactivated if "serious" new evidence emerges. The statute of limitations is six years for involuntary manslaughter and 12 for homicide.
"There were plenty of other suspects nobody investigated when the investigation first began," Arnold told The Early Show. "I think if the other suspects had been investigated, the roads would have led elsewhere and perhaps the situation would have been solved."
Tillman said that possibility leaves a glimmer of hope for the Holloway family, which is now awaiting a deep-water search by a Texas-based private group.
Few expect the search to turn up anything.
"They would still like to get answers someday," Kelly told The Early Show. "Hope springs eternal."