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13 years after her disappearance, student Molly Dattilo declared dead

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Posted at 12:20 PM, Sep 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-22 15:24:50-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- Thirteen years after she disappeared on the west side of Indianapolis, Molly Dattilo has been declared legally dead.

The 23-year-old Eastern Kentucky University student was taking summer classes at IUPUI when she vanished on July 6, 2004.

Investigators said she had gone to pick up a job application from a Wendy’s restaurant on the west side and never returned.

Dattilo’s cell phone, ID and most of her belongings were found in her apartment – leading the family and police to suspect foul play.

Dattilo’s parents offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to her safe return, and an anonymous donor offered an additional $100,000. But, despite intensive searches in Indiana and Kentucky, she was never found.

On Wednesday, following petitions by Dattilo’s mother and siblings, Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Darrell M. Auxier signed an order declaring her legally dead.

In the order, Auxier writes that Dattilo’s absence for 13 years “cannot be explained other than that she is deceased.”

In 2010, Dattilo’s family won a nearly $3.5 million judgment against two men – John Shelton and his father, Edward Shelton – they claimed were involved in her disappearance. Neither man was ever charged in the case.

Dattilo's sister, Celestra Dewey, told RTV6 the family felt it was the right time to ask for the declaration.

"It was time to do it," she said. "The case is stagnant."

Dattilo would have been 36 this year. Dewey said her family still hopes that one day her body will be found.

"There never will be closure until a body is found," Dewey said.