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Lawyer Challenges Aruba Officials In Missing Md. Woman Case

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BALTIMORE/ORANJESTAD, Aruba (WJZ/AP) — The suspect in the disappearance of a missing Maryland woman is in an Aruban jail, and his lawyer is calling for his release. Attorney Michael Lopez says there’s no evidence on which to hold Gary Giordano in the presumed death of 35-year-old Robyn Gardner. Lopez says Giordano has provided all the information he can.

Lopez denied statements by prosecutors that his client is no longer answering questions about what happened to Gardner, his companion on a short trip to the Dutch Caribbean island.

Giordano, a 50-year-old business owner from Gaithersburg has granted four interviews to investigators and accompanied them twice on visits to the area where he said Gardner disappeared while they went snorkeling, Lopez said in a written statement Sunday.

“To date, our client has given all possible cooperation to the investigation,” he said. “Where our client has been asked the same question more than once, he referred to previous statements.”

Giordano is scheduled to appear before a judge Monday for a detention hearing. If authorities don’t have enough evidence to bring formal charges against Gary Giordano, the judge could release him the same day.

Prosecutors plan to ask that he be held for at least eight more days while authorities continue to investigate what happened to Gardner. Previously, Aruban Solicitor General Taco Stein said that investigators believe the 35-year-old woman from Frederick is dead.

It’s been almost two weeks since Robyn Gardner disappeared in Aruba. Investigators are building their case against Giordano, the last man to see her alive. As he sits in jail, Aruban authorities are intensifying their search, checking mine shafts for Gardner’s body.

Gardner’s family is still hoping she’ll be found alive. Her brother spoke with WJZ but asked us to hide his face.

“My gut feeling and gut instinct is that she’s out there somewhere to be found,” he said.

Investigators, however, aren’t so sure.

Through a lawyer, Giordano has denied any wrongdoing. Lopez says his client did not know anything about Aruba and that Gardner suggested they visit the island in the southern Caribbean.

The couple came to Aruba on July 31 and Giordano reported her missing on Aug. 2. Police detained Giordano three days later as he tried to fly back to the United States, saying they had questions about a number of his statements to investigators.

A judge last week ordered Giordano held eight days while authorities investigated Gardner’s disappearance.

Giordano claims Gardner drifted away while snorkeling. A search of the area around where they went snorkeling has yielded no trace of the missing woman. Aruban investigators don’t believe that story and neither does Gardner’s boyfriend.

“I just don’t think she was snorkeling,” he said. “In my heart, I feel something happened at this person’s hand.”

Lopez criticized the prosecutor’s office for releasing a photo of Giordano as they seek witnesses who may have seen the couple together on the island.

“We note that doing this without any kind of proof that the client has committed a crime will damage his good name and jeopardize his company in the States,” the lawyer said. “This can lead to substantial damages.”

Back here in Maryland, the FBI swarmed Giordano’s home in Gaithersburg Friday. Agents searched for evidence but didn’t give a lot details.

“Because this is an active investigation, we cannot comment further on the progress of the investigation or our findings here,” an investigator said.

Aruba has asked for help in its investigation from the FBI under a law enforcement cooperation treaty between the U.S. and the island. Given the presence of the treaty, and Giordano’s cooperation, his lawyer said he should be allowed to return home and could be extradited back to Aruba if he is later found to have committed any crime.

Authorities haven’t filed formal charges against Giordano. But Monday, they’re expected to ask a judge to hold him in jail as they search for more clues.

Aruban law, which is based on the Dutch legal system, allows prosecutors to request that Giordano be detained for a maximum of eight more days.

After that period, prosecutors could ask a judge to order Giordano held for as long as 60 days while they prepare a case, but that would require more substantial evidence. Charges would be filed at the end of the 60 days if prosecutors take the case to court.

This period of investigatory detention was used by Aruban authorities to detain a number of people who were later released in the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, a case that was never solved.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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