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“I believe they paid top price for it, then the market tanked,” said neighbor Bill Mohan.

Mr. Gardner declined to comment for this article.

Ms. Gardner remained in Frederick even after the couple separated, eventually moving into an apartment with friend and hairstylist Christina Jones. Though she was still renting the apartment at the time of her disappearance, Ms. Gardner was mostly staying at her boyfriend’s Bethesda apartment, where she kept most of her clothes and her two cats, Mr. Forester said.

Each morning, the two carpooled together to their offices, which were about a quarter-mile apart.

The trim blonde, who had numerous and prominent tattoos, enjoyed running along the C&O Canal to stay fit and unwinding after work at happy hours or at home watching reality TV, Mr. Forester said.

Body art was a common interest for the couple, who got matching nautical star tattoos on a trip together to Florida.

“She’s beautiful inside and out,” Mr. Forester said. “Overall, she was a loving, kind person whom people wanted to be around.”