Aruba judge orders Md. man held in woman's disappearance

August 16, 2011|By Dan Morse, The Washington Post

A judge in Aruba on Monday ordered a Gaithersburg man held for 16 more days as investigators continued to probe how and why his traveling companion disappeared two weeks ago.

Gary V. Giordano, 50, appeared before an examining magistrate for a little over two hours. The proceeding was closed to the press, as is typical at this stage in Aruban investigations. But Aruban Solicitor General Taco Stein said that prosecutors argued to the judge that Gardner appeared to be the victim of foul play and Giordano was involved.

This is second time a judge has ordered Giordano held since his Aug. 5 arrest, which occurred three days after his companion, Robyn Gardner, 35, of Frederick County, went missing. The mystery has been propelled to international news in large part by its similarities to the case of Natalee Holloway, who disappeared from the island in 2005.

Michael Lopez, Giordano's attorney in Aruba, was not immediately available for comment. He has said that his client did not commit a crime and should be released.

Giordano, who owns a personnel staffing company, arrived in Aruba on July 31 with Gardner, according to authorities. On the evening of Aug. 2, Giordano told authorities that the two had gone snorkeling, but Gardner didn't make it back to shore. Three days later, as Giordano was trying to board a flight back to the U.S., Aruban police arrested him at the airport.

In Aruba, prosecutors seeking to hold a suspect must appear before a judge at regular intervals, typically eight days, Stein said. On Monday, prosecutors essentially asked that Giordano be detained for two, eight-day periods, Stein said.

Giordano has been held in a cell at a police facility. With Monday's ruling, he was expected to be transferred to a prison, Stein said.

Prosecutors will have to present additional evidence to a judge at the conclusion of the 16-day period, Stein said. At that point, he expects prosecutors to formally file charges and request that Giordano be held for 60 more days. Documents that spell out prosecutors' cases are not made public until the start of the trial, Stein said.

Since Giordano's arrest, investigators have questioned his account of Gardner's disappearance. On Sunday, Stein termed him a "suspect in a suspicious death" and said prosecutors intended to pursue criminal charges.

Stein said if Gardner and Giordano had quarrelled and she left voluntarily, someone would have heard from her by now, particularly given the media attention on the case.

"She would have contacted us saying 'well I'm not dead, but I just don't want to see him anymore but that hasn't happened,'" Stein said. So that makes us fear the worst."

Andrea Colson, Gardner's mother, issued a statement Monday saying the family supports the work of Aruban investigators.

"We are still hoping to find out what has happened to our daughter, as we have not given up hope that she may still be alive," Colson said. "We just want to find our daughter, and we continue to ask the public for any tips they may have in helping our Robyn come home."

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