Aruban judge orders release of Gary Giordano, suspect in Robyn Gardner’s disappearance

A judge in Aruba on Friday denied prosecutors’ request to hold Gary Giordano for 30 more days as authorities continue to investigate the August disappearance of his traveling partner, Robyn Gardner, Giordano’s attorney said.

If prosecutors are unsuccessful in appealing the ruling, the Gaithersburg man could be released from an Aruban jail Tuesday and could leave the island.

Giordano, 50, was detained on Aug. 5, three days after he told authorities that the 35-year-old Frederick County woman disappeared while they were snorkeling off the coast of Aruba. Her body has not been found.

Authorities have focused on Giordano because he was in a position to collect a $1.5 million travel insurance policy on Gardner, and they said there were discrepancies in his story. In the past, Aruban Solicitor General Taco Stein has called Giordano a “suspect in a suspicious death.” Giordano’s detention had been extended a handful of times as the probe has unfolded.

Attorneys for Giordano have said that there is no evidence linking him to a crime.

“This is completely justified,” Chris Lejuez, Giordano’s attorney, said of the judge’s ruling. “All the investigation has turned up is either nothing or facts that are not relevant to the case. [Giordano] has been proclaiming his innocence from the beginning.”

Stein said that Giordano remains central to the investigation and that authorities appealed the judge’s decision soon after it was issued. So far, Stein said, a date has not been set for that hearing, but he hopes it will happen before Giordano is released.

“We know for a fact that he is not telling the truth,” Stein said. “We are determined to go on with this investigation, not only for ourselves and for justice, but for the relatives of Robyn Gardner.”

Stein said that without Gardner’s body, it is difficult to marshal the evidence needed to mount a case against Giordano. If Giordano is released, Stein said, Aruban authorities could still decide to file charges and then request that he be extradited back to the island. If a judge grants the prosecution appeal, authorities can hold Giordano only 30 more days without filing charges, Stein said.

Stein said that the investigation remains active. This week, he said, Dutch divers combed the shoreline near where Gardner disappeared in a search for her body. And law enforcement officials are still sorting through Giordano’s computer and e-mails he sent in the days before Gardner went missing.

Gardner and Giordano arrived on the island July 31. Giordano was arrested nearly a week later at an Aruban airport as he was about to leave the country. The case has generated international attention following the disappearance of Natalee Holloway on the island.

Lejuez said Giordano was caught off-guard by the judge’s ruling. Giordano was in court at the time.

“He didn’t expect this to happen,” Lejuez said. “They have been extending his detention, so he expected another extension. He needed  a moment for himself. It was very emotional.”

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