MARYLAND

Robyn Gardner, Bethesda woman missing in Aruba

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A week has passed since Robyn Gardner of Frederick was last heard from after she went missing in Aruba, and on Tuesday, several women say that the man she was last seen with caused other women to fear for their safety.

Gardner went missing on the Caribbean island about 16 miles off the coast of Venezuela.

Her boyfriend, Richard Forester, says that when their relationship went sour, Gardner may have jumped at the chance to take a free vacation with 50-year-old Gary Giordano, a man she met online.

The 35-year-old vivacious woman hasn’t been heard from in seven days. She was last seen Tuesday, Aug. 2, at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino in Oranjestad, Aruba.

The Aruban prosecutor's office said in a release that Giordano says they had gone snorkeling behind the Nanki Country Club when she went under. An intensive, multi-jurisdictional search has not turned up any sign of Gardner thus far.

Gardner, who lived and worked in Bethesda, left for Aruba on July 31. Richard Forester says they had been dating for two and a half years, but quarreled before she left. He received his last e-mail from Gardner Tuesday, three hours before she was reported missing.

“The last message I got from her was ‘I love you,’” Forester said. “We will talk and sort things out when I get back,” Gardner wrote. He says he has been reading that e-mail over and over since she disappeared.

Forester also says he has received numerous e-mails from other women who have had encounters with Giordano.

Forester thought Gardner went with a friend, but now believes she had a romantic relationship with Giordano. He notified Aruban authorities Gardner was missing. He said a current pulled her out to sea while snorkeling, according to an account in a local newspaper.

“I just don't think she was snorkeling. I think something has happened at this person's hand,” Forester alleges.

The intense search for Gardner bears some similarities to the 2005 disappearance of teenager Natalee Holloway. She never made it back to her plane to leave after a vacation on the island, and her body was never found.

Aruban authorities detained Giordano when he tried to leave the island. He apparently has an extensive rap sheet which includes domestic violence.

A woman tells ABC7 that she ran into Giordano a few days before he left for Aruba and told him to stay away from her.

"He was following me, stalking me," she said. "It freaked me out."

The woman also says she doesn't believe that Gardner was swept out to sea.

A center set up in her name is helping Gardner’s boyfriend deal work with local authorities.

Gardner is described as 5’5 and 120 pounds, with blond hair and brown eyes. She has a large tattoo from the back of her left shoulder to her elbow, as well as tattoos on her rib cage and her right bicep.

Meanwhile, Forester acknowledges hope is fading.

“All I could imagine is that while she was there whatever was happening to her she was screaming for me and I wasn't there,” he said.

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