Md. man to face charges in Aruba over woman's disappearance

Aruban authorities said Sunday that they intend to pursue criminal charges against Gary Giordano, the Gaithersburg man whose female companion disappeared on the island this month.

Aruban Solicitor General Taco Stein called Giordano a "suspect in a suspicious death." Giordano told officials that Robyn Gardner, 35, failed to return to the beach after the pair went snorkeling Aug. 2, but officials have questioned his account. Her body has not been found.

In Maryland, federal agents began sifting through documents seized during their raid of Giordano's $1.1 million home Friday night.

Giordano, 50, who has been held in Aruba since Aug. 5, is due to appear before a judge in a closed hearing today, Stein said. Prosecutors will update the judge on their investigation, ask that Giordano remain held and outline how they expect to proceed, he said.

Stein said prosecutors intend to criminally charge Giordano in connection with Gardner's apparent death, but he did specify the charge.

Giordano's lawyer in Aruba, Michael Lopez, released a statement Sunday condemning the probe, saying that Giordano should be freed and allowed to return to the United States.

"We can state that no felony has been committed by him," Lopez said. "Consideration must also be taken in the realm of human rights, which we feel are being abused in the area of his detention."

Giordano, who owns a personnel staffing company, arrived in Aruba on July 31 with Gardner, of Frederick County, who had just been laid off from her job at a dental practice in Bethesda, authorities and her friends said. On the evening of Aug. 2, Giordano told authorities that Gardner hadn't made it to shore after snorkeling.

But authorities quickly doubted that account. On Aug. 5, as Giordano was about to board a flight back to the United States, authorities arrested him. Authorities said he was held for questioning, but no formal charge was filed. Lopez, Giordano's attorney, said he was accused of the "assassination/homicide of his friend."

Giordano initially cooperated and went to the site with authorities where he said he last saw his companion, Lopez said. When police began asking the same questions, Giordano referred to his previous statements, Lopez said.

Lopez said that prosecutors issued inaccurate statements to the media that Giordano was stonewalling. "Our client has given all possible cooperation to the investigation," Lopez said.

Stein, who serves as a spokesman for the Aruban prosecutor's office, declined to comment Sunday on Lopez's statement.

Stein said investigators had spoken to a witness who saw Giordano and Gardner at a restaurant at 4 p.m. on Aug. 2. Giordano reported Gardner missing at 6:23 p.m., Stein said.

Investigators were trying to find more people who saw the pair together on the island. They want to know whether "they were arguing, they were in love, they were walking hand in hand; we want to know that," he said.

Stein said investigators had determined that Giordano did have snorkeling equipment. Two close friends of Gardner's said she liked to have cocktails at the end of days on vacations. The water where they were swimming that day was reportedly calm. "On that day, the sea was described by the Coast Guard as mirror-like," Stein said.

In recent days, police in Aruba have unsuccessfully searched caves for Gardner's body.

"At this point, we have no signs of her," Stein said.

Property records indicate that Giordano has lived in the Washington area for at least the past 20 years, and court records show he has had previous legal problems.

Two Montgomery County women have accused Giordano of domestic abuse or threats, according to requests for restraining orders filed in Rockville courthouses. In one case, a former girlfriend alleged that Giordano stalked her and posted pornographic images of her on the Internet, according to court papers.

Over a month-long period in 2003, according to Montgomery County police incident reports, Giordano shoplifted electronic items from a Germantown Target store three times. In total, he stole six Sony PlayStations, two mobile DVD players, a paper shredder and other items, according to police records.

Detectives searched his home and found the shredder, one of the DVD players and six Game Boy systems they say he stole from a Target in Frederick.

On Aug. 25, 2003, Giordano pleaded guilty to one count of a theft scheme of over $500 in connection with the case and was placed on six months' probation, according to Montgomery District Court records.

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