- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2011

The FBI’s Washington Field Office has begun conducting interviews of people close to a Maryland woman who went missing in Aruba last week.

At the request of Aruban authorities, FBI agents are providing logistical help as authorities on the Caribbean island investigate Robyn Gardner’s disappearance and continue to question her travel companion, said Special Agent Richard Wolf, a spokesman for the field office.

“We’ve done a couple interviews, but I’m not going to get into details,” he said.

Ms. Gardner, 35, of Frederick, Md., was reported missing by her travel companion, Gary Giordano, 50, of Gaithersburg, on Aug. 2. Mr. Giordano, who works for an employment agency, told Aruban authorities the pair went snorkeling but when he swam to shore he could not find Ms. Gardner.

Inconsistencies in Mr. Giordano’s account of his friend’s disappearance led authorities to place him in custody Aug. 5 in order to prevent him from leaving the island, Aruban Solicitor General Taco Stein told the Associated Press.

“The only thing we have is his story, his statement, and it leaves us with some questions,” Mr. Stein said, adding that no witnesses saw the pair go snorkeling that afternoon.

Family and friends of Ms. Gardner’s have voiced skepticism of Mr. Giordano’s version of events.

Ms. Gardner’s mother, Andrea Colson, issued a statement Thursday saying that she is still hopeful her daughter will return unharmed.

“We can only pray that she will soon be with us and bring back the joy into our lives,” Ms. Colson said. “We are confident and very grateful to the Aruba authorities and volunteers who are working above and beyond all our expectations. I hope you understand that we are being quiet [so] as to not jeopardize the investigation.”

The statement was issued through the Natalee Holloway Resource Center, which provides outreach assistance to families of missing persons. The center bears the name of an Alabama teenager who went missing in Aruba in 2005 while on a high school class trip. Her remains were never found.

With little evidence uncovered so far in Ms. Gardner’s case, Aruban authorities said Mr. Giordano will be held until Monday, when a judge’s pretrial detention order expires. Prosecutors will have to present evidence to justify holding him any longer than that, Mr. Stein told the Associated Press.

A lawyer representing Mr. Giordano in Aruba has maintained his client’s innocence.

In Maryland, court records indicate a woman obtained a protective order banning Mr. Giordano from her home and work last year.

Steven Kupferburg, an attorney who says he has represented Mr. Giordano on various legal matters over the past 18 months, said Mr. Giordano was never accused of any criminal wrongdoing in that case.

Mr. Kupferburg said he’s never seen the man angered to the point of violence and does not believe he is involved in Ms. Gardner’s disappearance.

“He’s been upset people are saying bad things about him, but not to the point when he would consider hurting anybody,” Mr. Kupferburg said.

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