Gary V. Giordano, 50, of Gaithersburg, Md., is shown on an Aruba's police mugshot in Oranjestad, Aruba.
msnbc.com news services
updated 8/13/2011 1:03:48 AM ET 2011-08-13T05:03:48

Authorities in Aruba believe a missing American tourist is no longer alive and are seeking to extend a detention order for her travel companion as they seek witnesses who will help them build a case against him, a prosecutor on the Dutch Caribbean island said Friday.

Investigators have few witnesses who saw Robyn Gardner and Gary V. Giordano together in Aruba before he reported her missing, said Solicitor General Taco Stein. Giordano has told police she was apparently pulled away by the ocean current as they snorkeled off the southern tip of the island on Aug. 2.

After so many days, authorities no longer believe the 35-year-old Maryland woman could be alive, so they are holding Giordano on suspicion of involvement in her death. Her remains have not been recovered despite a search of more than four days in the sea and on the coastline in the area where she was reported missing.

"As long as we don't have a body, you can question whether or not she is dead," Stein told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "On the other hand, with all the publicity on the case, if she were still alive she would have made herself known."

Story: Boyfriend fears for safety of woman missing in Aruba

Other factors also lead to the conclusion she is dead, Stein told reporters later. Police have recovered her passport from her belongings and don't believe she could have left the island by air with a false identity. They have also found no evidence that she left Aruba by boat.

Asked why there is no further search for her remains, the prosecutor said it would be difficult to search without knowing where to look, even on a relatively small island. Aruba is about 75 square miles (193 square kilometers), nearly the size of Baltimore, Maryland.

But later Friday, several dozen police and firefighters fanned out in an area near where Gardner went missing and appeared to be searching caves. Officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Video: Boyfriend speaks out about woman missing in Aruba (on this page)

Giordano, a 50-year-old business owner from Gaithersburg, Maryland, has denied any wrongdoing through his attorney. He initially helped with the search but Stein said he now declines to answer questions from investigators.

FBI agents searched Giordano's home in Gaithersburg on Friday evening. Agent Phil Celestini said the FBI was executing a federal search warrant and declined to answer questions.

Last year, Maryland officials investigated Giordano on allegations he stalked and harassed women, The Boston Herald reported on Friday. A Maryland woman accused Giordano of threatening her, videotaping their sexual encounters and posting footage online, the Boston newspaper reported citing court documents.

Giordano and Gardner, who is from Frederick, Maryland, arrived in Aruba on July 31 and shared a room at a Marriott hotel. Investigators have surveillance tape of them at a restaurant near Baby Beach, not far from where he says she disappeared while snorkeling. But no witnesses saw them go into the water and police have no knowledge of what else they did on the island, Stein said. Investigators have distributed photos of the couple and are hoping anyone who saw them will contact police.

Relationship under scrutiny
Investigators particularly need details of how the couple behaved together on the island, and whether they seemed close or quarreled. "We have very little information about what they did on the island. The information we have doesn't give us insight into their relationship," Stein said.

Richard Forester, Gardner's boyfriend, told the FBI he found it unlikely that Gardner would have gone snorkeling. Of her vacation with another man, he said, "It's certainly an issue that is on my mind, but it is far from being anywhere important right now."

Giordano's lawyer, Michael Lopez, has said his client lost track of Gardner while they were snorkeling and is expected to contest the request.

"We feel we have a strong case, but what the judge will think, I don't know," Stein said.

Under Aruban law, which is based on the Dutch legal system, the judge can extend the next detention order for a maximum of eight days at a hearing scheduled for Monday.

After that period, prosecutors could ask a judge to order Giordano held for as long as 60 days while they prepare a case, but that would require more substantial evidence. Charges would be filed at the end of the 60 days if prosecutors take the case to court.

Aruba's system became familiar to many Americans who followed the disappearance in 2005 of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway. Authorities repeatedly detained individuals suspected of involvement but then later had to release them for lack of evidence. That case was never solved.

NBCWashington and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report compiled by The Associated Press.

© 2013 msnbc.com

Video: Boyfriend speaks out about woman missing in Aruba

  1. Transcript of: Boyfriend speaks out about woman missing in Aruba

    MATT LAUER, co-host: But we want to begin this half-hour with those new details in the case of a Maryland woman who is missing in Aruba . NBC 's Tom Costello has the latest on this story. Tom , good morning.

    TOM COSTELLO reporting: Hi , Matt , good morning to you. This case is eerily similar in some ways to the case of Natalee Holloway , who disappeared in Aruba some six years ago. Only in this case, 35-year-old Robyn Gardner apparently left Bethesda , Maryland , where we are now, on her way to Aruba without telling her boyfriend. Now the man she travelled with, 50-year-old Gary Giordano , is under arrest. That's Gary Giordano on Baby Beach in Aruba , telling police he last saw Robyn Gardner while they snorkeled together on August 2nd ; but, he claims, she never came back to shore. When Giordano tried to leave Aruba on Friday he was arrested. His attorney in Aruba is Michael Lopez .

    Mr. MICHAEL LOPEZ: My client has been detained for -- as a suspect for a murder investigation. He did give the police, meanwhile, all kinds of cooperation.

    COSTELLO: Robyn Gardner met Giordano on match.com a year ago, and agreed to fly to Aruba after she lost her job recently. But she already had a boyfriend, Richard Forester . She told him she was going to Florida to see family. Now he fears for her safety.

    Mr. RICHARD FORESTER (Robyn Gardner's Boyfriend): I'm not angry at her. If she's found and she's brought back to me, yeah, I'll be angry then. But right now that doesn't -- that's not even a factor.

    COSTELLO: Back in Maryland , Gary Giordano has a violent history: allegations of domestic violence against an ex-wife, and Maryland court records reveal two restraining orders requested by previous girlfriends. One claimed, "He started to hit me on my face, neck, breast and buttocks. He started to choke me with both hands." Another reported Giordano threatened her and said, "The world would be better off without me and he could help." In 2003 , Giordano was convicted for shoplifting electronics. Now the FBI has joined the

    investigation in Aruba. Former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt: Giordano is alleged to have had a history of violence with past girlfriends. The authorities have to both look at that as well as look at any evidence that's going to suggest they left a hotel together or he left by himself.

    Mr. CLINT VAN ZANDT: Robyn 's disappearance is an eerie reminder of 18-year-old Natalee Holloway 's disappearance in Aruba in 2005 . Joran van der Sloot , the last person to see Natalee alive, was never charged. Today he's in prison in Peru , accused of another murder. But the Natalee Holloway Resource Center says despite Aruba 's concern about the impact on tourism, Robyn Gardner 's disappearance also needs publicity.

    COSTELLO: No matter what they want and what they think is right, it is important that we get the media involved.

    Ms. JANINE VACCARELLO (Natalee Holloway Resource Center): Aruba , of course, is a Dutch territory. We are told that Robyn Gardner 's BlackBerry and iPod have been turned over to the police, and they've actually sent the Blackberry to the Netherlands for a more thorough analysis.

    COSTELLO: Tom Costello , thank you very much . Robyn Gardner 's boyfriend Richard Forester is with us now. Mr. Forester , good morning to you.

    Matt: Good morning.

    LAUER: Tell me a little bit about your relationship with Robyn . How long had you been dating her before she took this trip?

    Mr. FORESTER: Well, we've been together for about two and a half years, but fairly exclusive, I guess, since about January of 2011 .

    LAUER: Now, she told you she was on a trip, she was going to go see family members in Florida . It turns out that's not where she was. How did you find that out?

    Mr. FORESTER: I found that out once I had spoken to a family member when they told me that she'd been reported missing.

    LAUER: And then didn't she also send you a text or an e-mail at some point, in fact, admitting that she was in Aruba ? And at that time, did she also admit she was there with someone else?

    Mr. FORESTER: No. I did get a -- I did get an e-mail saying that she was in Aruba , but it was just a change of plans as far as where they were going.

    LAUER: Mr. Forester , have you ever heard of Gary Giordano ? Have you ever met him? Do you know anything about him?

    Mr. FORESTER: I have never met him. I had heard his name before, and I was under the assumption it was just a friend.

    LAUER: So when you got that e-mail that she was in Aruba , she added no other information, she didn't talk about being fearful, that she was concerned about her safety, nothing that might help in this investigation?

    Mr. FORESTER: No. I'll tell you, not when I got that e-mail. On Tuesday morning, on the second of August, a little bit after 2 in the morning, she had posted a note, a message on my Facebook wall saying, "This sucks." I didn't get it until the morning when I got to work. And I questioned her, I didn't know what it was, but she didn't respond. I e-mailed her throughout the day. And then later on in the day, between, probably, I don't know, somewhere around 3 in the afternoon she sent me an inbox message on my Facebook saying, you know, "I love you. I care about you. We'll talk about this and sort it out when I get back."

    LAUER: But it seems like she left a lot more questions than answers.

    Mr. FORESTER: Yes.

    LAUER: Now, when you hear that Mr. Giordano has told authorities that the two of them went snorkeling and she didn't return to the beach when he did, he then tried to leave Aruba , you think -- you say that that has to be a lie. And why do you say that?

    Mr. FORESTER: Just know -- just knowing her, Matt. I believe that she's too concerned about her hair, about her makeup. At that point in the evening, afternoon, being in a place like Aruba somewhere, she's probably had a couple of drinks and she's not going to stop to go swimming in the ocean at that point. She's probably going to be getting ready to go out for dinner for the evening. But I just know she's not -- she's never been a fan of snorkeling. She said she may do it, but she wasn't that interested. She is a swimmer, but would prefer to be in a swimming pool. Now, being in a place like Aruba , that might be a little bit different. But I just don't accept for one minute that she was snorkeling. Also, the story, from what I understand, had changed to -- from when they were snorkeling to they walked out to a point where the water was almost above their heads, and that's when they decided to swim back to shore. When he got back to shore, turned around and she -- he couldn't see her, he couldn't find her.

    LAUER: I ask this, and I hope you understand the tone that I ask it with. You seem to know her very well about what she would and wouldn't do, and yet it comes as a surprise to you that she would actually be in Aruba with another man.

    Mr. FORESTER: You're right. You're absolutely right. I do feel like I know her very well. She was going through some tough times. She had lost her job recently. So I really can't say where her mind was at, at that point. My biggest concern isn't that she was there with another man, that's to me -- obviously, I mean, that's an issue. But my biggest concern is that she's found and she's found safely, and I'm able to have that discussion with her.

    LAUER: And when you -- when you hear allegations that Mr. Giordano has perhaps been violent or threatened other women in the past, do you fear that he has in some ways brought harm to her?

    Mr. FORESTER: Very much so. Very much so. I've done my own research, I've had people come out from his past who have contacted me and told me some pretty bad details. So I definitely have a very bad feeling. But at the same time, I just try to stay optimistic and hopeful that she'll be back and return home safely.

    LAUER: Richard Forester . Mr. Forester , I appreciate your time this morning. Thank you very much .

    Mr. FORESTER: Thank you.



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