(AP) A travel writer who vanished from a Jamaican resort nearly two years ago has been declared legally dead.
Superior Court Judge Reginald Stanton determined that Claudia Kirschhoch died May 27, 2000 — the day the 29-year-old woman was last seen. She would have been 31 on Feb. 9.
“She did not voluntarily disappear,” Stanton concluded Monday. “Some kind of foul play occurred.”
Fred and Mary Ann Kirschhoch of Morristown had sought the declaration, which now allows them to pursue a lawsuit against anyone believed responsible for their daughter’s disappearance and suspected homicide.
“We want to know what happened. We just have to know what happened,” Fred Kirschhoch said during the three-hour hearing in Morris County.
Claudia Kirschhoch was living in New York City and working as an assistant editor for Frommer’s Travel Guides when she disappeared.
She was expecting to visit Cuba in a trip sponsored by Sandals Resorts, but when she arrived in Jamaica on May 24, 2000, she learned that the trip was canceled. She was offered a stay at a Sandals-affiliated resort called Beaches in Negril, Jamaica, and told her parents that she expected to return to the United States by May 29 or June 1, 2000.
She had breakfast with another travel writer on May 27, the last sighting the parents consider reliable. Her luggage was found in her room.
The Kirschhochs said they plan to file a lawsuit in Florida against Sandals, claiming its employees stymied the investigation into their daughter’s disappearance.