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Robyn Gardner's travel companion now a suspect in Aruba disappearance

Md. woman Robyn Gardner missing in Aruba, snorkeling buddy arrested
Robyn Gardner
Personal Photo

(CBS/AP) SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Gary Giordano, a Maryland man who claimed his travel partner Robyn Gardner drowned during a getaway to Aruba, has now become a suspect in her disappearance because his response to the incident raised the suspicions of police.

Pictures: Robyn Gardner

Giordano was in jail on the Caribbean island Wednesday as authorities looked for clues to what happened to his friend, the 35-year-old Gardner. He has said she disappeared while they were snorkeling near the southern tip of the island, the Aruban prosecutor's office said.

Authorities said Wednesday that they had called off the active search for Gardner because they had no more leads to pursue, but that they planned to question Giordano again.

Earlier, the prosecutor's office said it decided to detain Giordano on Friday, as he tried to leave Aruba, because of questions about information he gave police about the disappearance. Prosecutors have not said what prompted their suspicions.

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

According to Lopez, the two Americans had been in Aruba a couple of days when they decided to go snorkeling on Aug. 2 near an area known as Baby Beach. 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, Lopez says Giordano noticed she wasn't with him and ran to get help after looking for her in the water.

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.

Gardner, a 5-foot-5-inch blonde with prominent tattoos on her arm, rib cage and right bicep, had worked in the past as a patient care coordinator at a dental office in Bethesda, Maryland, said Richard A. Forester, who said he was her boyfriend.

Forester said Gardner lived much of the time with him in Rockville, Maryland and had said that she and Giordano were platonic friends.

"I'm starting to believe that's not true," Forester said in a phone interview. "I'm starting to believe there was some romantic thing."

Forester said he and Gardner had been in contact through Facebook until just before she disappeared. After she vanished, her Google Chat indicators showed she was active on Gmail, then on but not active, and finally off, he said. It seemed to indicate that she or someone else had been on her Gmail account, he said.

"I'm terrified as to what may have happened to her," he said. "I'm sad and scared that I might not see her again. I love her very much and all I am concerned about is that she gets home safely."

Aruba has dealt with a missing person case before, involving an American - 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.

Anyone with information leading about Robyn Gardner's location, please contact the Aruban authorities at 011-297-597-5201.

More on Crimesider
August 9, 2011 - Md. woman Robyn Gardner missing in Aruba