You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

Aruban judge orders Giordano released

- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Gaithersburg man is scheduled to be released from an Aruba prison Tuesday after being held for nearly four months in the disappearance of a female travel companion.

Gary Giordano, 50, was ordered released after prosecutors failed to convince a judge Friday that he should be detained an additional 30 days as they continue to investigate the presumed death of Robyn Gardner, 35, of Frederick, Md.

Mr. Giordano has been held since Aug. 5 but no criminal charges have been filed.

The most-recent detention order for Mr. Giordano will expire Tuesday. Prosecutors have filed an appeal to his release, but the appeal hearing is not scheduled until late Wednesday morning, Aruba Solicitor General Taco Stein said Friday.

"It's not a very comfortable position," Mr. Stein said.

If the panel of three judges hearing the appeal rule in prosecutors' favor, Mr. Giordano could be re-arrested in Aruba -- if he remains on the island -- or extradited if he returns to the United States, Mr. Stein said.

"Whatever happens, the investigation will continue," he said. "We are determined to bring this case to clarity."

In 2005, Alabama high schooler Natalee Ann Holloway disappeared during a high school graduation trip to Aruba. Police on several occasions arrested Joran van der Sloot and two other young men from the island who were last seen with Holloway. However, the suspects were released for lack of evidence and the case, which attracted international attention, was never solved.

Mr. Giordano's attorney, Chris Lejuez, said last week that the appeals hearing could be held sooner than Wednesday but that no agreement had been made.

He also said Mr. Giordano was incredibly surprised and overwhelmed upon learning he likely will be released Tuesday.

"He didn't expect the judge to let him go because she has refused to let him go several times before," Mr. Lejuez said.

Ms. Gardner and Mr. Giordano left on a trip together to the Caribbean island July 31. They were supposed to return Aug. 5. However, Mr. Giordano reported Ms. Gardner missing Aug. 2, saying she was swept out to sea while they were snorkeling.

Widespread searches of the island and the surrounding ocean have yet to turn up Ms. Gardner's body. Re-enactments of Mr. Giordano's version of events and deep-water searches have convinced investigators that Ms. Gardner was not in the water, Mr. Stein said.

During Friday's hearing, prosecutors argued that they want to keep Mr. Giordano in custody because the investigation is not complete.

Mr. Lejuez argued that the unfinished parts involve items such as a camera and computers that were already in the possession of investigators.

"He can await the results of those investigations in freedom," Mr. Lejuez said. "There is no need to have him stay in custody. There is nothing that indicates that Mr. Giordano has committed a crime in Aruba."

Investigators think Mr. Giordano had motive to kill Ms. Gardner because he took out a $1.5 million travel insurance policy on her before the trip.

"We see the main motive as the possibility of the insurance fraud," Mr. Stein said.

According to court records in Maryland, Mr. Giordano claimed to have been in financial distress several months before taking the trip and he had sought to reduce child support payments for his three sons.

Mr. Lejuez said the travel insurance was a standard policy that many people take out when they travel.
When asked if his client intended to leave the island as soon as he was freed, Mr. Lejuez said, "I think that's the first thing I would do."

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.