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Authorities Question Man After Maryland Woman Disappears in Aruba

Robyn Gardner

Robyn Gardner, 35, of Frederick, Md., disappeared Aug. 2 from the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino in Oranjestad.

A Maryland woman vacationing in Aruba has disappeared from the same resort town where Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway was last seen six years ago.

Robyn Gardner, 35, of Frederick, Md., disappeared Aug. 2 from the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino in Oranjestad, MyFoxDC.com reports.

Robyn Gardner, 35, of Frederick, Maryland, vanished after snorkeling with her companion off the western tip of the Caribbean island Aug. 2, said Ann Angela, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office. She said police immediately launched an extensive search of the water and shore but turned up nothing and Gardner is still listed as missing.

As the official search ended Saturday, the man who accompanied Gardner to the island sought to fly back to the U.S. but he was detained at the airport.

"Statements made by the traveling companion led to such questions that on Friday, Aug. 5, 2011, it was decided to detain him for further questioning on the possible drowning of the woman," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Authorities referred to the man only by his initials, but his lawyer identified him as Gary V. Giordano, 50.

Island officials declined to say what precisely led them to stop Giordano or to provide many details about the case.

The newspaper Aruba Today said Giordano was detained because he bought a ticket to leave the island after earlier agreeing to stay and help the missing woman's mother search for her and to cooperate with the investigation into her disappearance.

Aruba has experience dealing with missing person cases following the still unsolved disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway during a high school class trip to the island in 2005. Her remains were never found and the main suspect, Joran van der Sloot, is in jail in Peru on charges of killing a 21-year-old woman last May.

Giordano's Aruban lawyer, Michael Lopez, said his client was being unjustly held.

"Our client emphatically denies being involved in any malicious act concerning his friend and consequently does not consider himself a suspect," Lopez said in a written statement provided to The Associated Press.

The two Americans had been in Aruba a couple of days when they decided to go snorkeling in the area known as Baby Beach, Lopez said. He said the pair eventually realized they were being pulled out to sea by the current and Giordano tapped on Gardner's leg to signal that they should swim back. When he got to shore, he noticed she wasn't with him and ran to get help after looking for her unsuccessfully in the water, the lawyer said.

Lopez said that in the following days, Giordano assisted with the search and answered questions from police. He said his client waited until the woman's mother arrived before he decided he should return to the U.S. Giordano says he was given permission to leave by an official at the U.S. consulate on the nearby island of Curacao, the lawyer said.

The U.S. vice consul, Winnie Hofstetter, declined to comment on the case.

Lopez said that after being detained, Giordano initially declined to cooperate further with prosecutors and police because he felt he was being wrongly detained.

"As judicial representative of our client we can say that after reading and analyzing everything there is until now in his case file, there is no concrete or direct indication that our client might be involved in any illicit act concerning his friend," Lopez said.

Giordano is from Gaithersburg, Maryland. His lawyer said he runs an employment agency.

Gardner's boyfriend, Richard Forester, said he doesn't believe Giordano's account and pleaded for the public to help find her.

"I want to let people know this is going on," Forester told the station. "She's been missing six days, and every day she's gone raises fear that she won't be coming back."

Gardner's case comes six years after 18-year-old Natalee Holloway disappeared in May 2005 during a high school senior trip to the island. Her body has never been found.

Gardner is described as 5-foot-5, weighing 120 pounds, with blond hair and brown eyes. She has tattoos on her left arm, rib cage, and right bicep.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts is being urged to contact Fred Panneflek with the Aruban authorities at 011-297-597-5201.

 

Click here for more on the disappearance of Robyn Gardner from MyFoxDC.com 

Frederick Woman, Robyn Gardner, Missing in Aruba: MyFoxDC.com

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.