CRIME

Robyn Gardner missing: Active search called off by Aruban authorities

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(AP, ABC7) — The brother of the Bethesda woman who has been missing in Aruba for a week is speaking out, calling her sister a role model and an inspiration.

A photo provided by her brother shows missing Robyn Gardner.

“Robyn is a very loving caring kind person,” Andrew Colson said about his sister, 35-year-old Robyn Gardner. “She had such a nice radiant smile that it brought joy to everyone and such a positive energy.”

Aruban authorities have called off a search for Gardner, who disappeared a week ago while vacationing at the island. Her travel partner, a Maryland man who claims she drowned while snorkling, has now become a suspect in her disappearance because his response to the incident raised suspicions of police.

On Thursday, members of Gardner's family said a confidential tipline had been established for people to call if they have any information regarding Robyn's whereabouts.

"We are hoping for the very best outcome with the help of the international community that we will reach a favorable outcome," Andrea Colson, Robin's mother, said in a statement.

Gardner’s brother questions her Giordano’s story

Colson last saw his sister in May. He said Aruban authorities asked them not to discuss the case in detail, but that they do not believe her companion's account of what happened. Gary Giordano said she was unlikely to have been snorkeling in the first place.

"I think there's more to it," he said. "...She just wouldn't want to ruin her makeup or get her hair wet."

Colson said Giordano seemed too calm when his mother came to Aruba to help find her daughter.

"He didn't seem very sorrowful. He wasn't mournful or anything," Colson told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Odenton, Md. Asked if he thinks Giordano is dangerous, Colson said yes.

Talking to ABC7’s Stephen Tschida, Colson said his sister was an inspiration and role model to him.

“Robyn is a very loving, caring, kind person,” Colson said. “She had such a nice radiant smile that it brought joy to everyone and such a positive energy.”

“She told me to live every day like it's your last, and it's ever since I heard it from her I try to do the same and she tries to do the same as well,” he said.

Giordano claims snorkeling accident

Giordano was in jail on the Caribbean island Wednesday. He has said Gardner disappeared while they were snorkeling near the southern tip of the island, the Aruban prosecutor's office said.

Aruban Solicitor General Taco Stein said that authorities had called off the active search for Gardner because they had no more leads to pursue, but that they planned to question Giordano again.

"The suspect is standing by his story that they went snorkeling and that Robyn did not resurface," Stein said.

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.

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

In a written statement to the Associated Press, Lopez said Giordano denies any involvement in Gardner’s disappeareance and “does not consider himself a suspect.”

   
Robyn gardner    
Missing Robyn Gardner. (Photo courtesy Andrew Colson)

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, Lopez said. 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, he noticed she wasn't with him and ran to get help after looking for her unsuccessfully in the water, the lawyer said.

“The current outside is very harsh it will take you away in minutes if you don't watch out and I think that is what happened,” Lopez said.

Lopez said that in the following days, Giordano assisted with the search and answered questions from police. Video of the search shows Giordano accompanying police as they searched the water around where he said Gardner disappeared.

He said his client waited until the woman's mother arrived before deciding to 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.

The U.S. vice consul, Winnie Hofstetter, declined to comment on the case.

Lopez said that after being detained, Giordano initially declined to cooperate further with prosecutors and police because he felt he was being wrongly detained.

Giordano is from Gaithersburg, Maryland. His lawyer said he runs an employment agency.

Friends, family worry about Gardner

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, Md., said Richard A. Forester, who said he was her boyfriend.

Her best friend Christina Jones said she is still holding out hope that Gardner will be found. She said Giordano had invited Gardner on a pervious vacation, but she declined.
"She's just a great,” said Jones. “She's a wonderful female and I hope I can do some justice to bring her home or find out really what happened, the truth."

Jones said the women were roommates at their Frederick apartment, but that Gardner had been spending most of her time at her boyfriend's apartment.

Jones says Gardner spent Saturday night at her house before jetting off the next day to Aruba with Giordano. Jones says Gardner and Giordano knew each other for about a year. She describes the 50-year-old man Gardner met online as eccentric.

“You kind of get a vibe from someone if they have someone good or not great in their life and I just didn't get that vibe,” she said.

Giordano offered to take Gardner on a cruise a couple of months ago, her friend said. When she declined, Giordano wasn't happy. "How he reacted about the cruise is the reason why I was worried about why she was going to be going to Aruba," Jones said.

Boyfriend suspects romantic relationship with travel companion

Gardner’s boyfriend, Forester, said she lived with him in Rockville and that she and Giordano were platonic friends. The pair were scheduled to spend about five days in Aruba, Forester said.

"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 experience dealing with missing person cases following 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.

Jones says she's staying hopeful her friend is just missing. “I mean we have hope, that's all we've got right now,” she said.

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