Robyn Gardner Aruba Disappearance: Suspect's Troubled Past

American Robyn Gardner is presumed dead. Barbie Latza Nadeau on the case with eerie ties to Natalee Holloway.

AP Photo

Crime-scene investigators on the Dutch island of Aruba in the Caribbean say they are sure that 35-year-old American tourist Robyn Gardner is dead—and that her 50-year-old travel companion Gary Giordano had something to do with it.

Gardner and Giordano, who met on dating website Match.com, were on a five-day holiday in Aruba when Gardner disappeared August 2. Giordano was arrested three days later when he was trying to leave the island. He denies any wrongdoing.

Authorities in the Netherlands, who are directing what is now a murder investigation, say new evidence in the case suggests Giordano is lying about what happened to Gardner. Giordano claimed that she didn’t return to shore after the two had gone snorkeling at around 6 p.m. on August 2. Authorities now say the two likely never went snorkeling at all.

Gardner’s American boyfriend told authorities that she wasn’t the type to go snorkeling, and one of Giordano’s ex-wives told the FBI that because Giordano had a hairweave he rarely got his head wet. Instead they believe Giordano killed Gardner in a violent rage and then hid her body, possibly weighting it down before dumping her in the sea or burying her in one of the island’s mines, caves, or swamps.

The tiny island has an area of just 75 square miles, and Aruba’s chief prosecutor Taco Stein says there is no record that she left the island—and if she were alive, someone would have spotted her by now. “It must stand to reason by now, because we haven’t heard of her anymore, that she’s dead,” said Stein.

Working with FBI agents who confiscated documents and computers from Giordano’s Maryland home, the Dutch authorities say they believe they will have enough evidence to charge Giordano with manslaughter. On Monday, they were granted a request to keep Giordano jailed in Aruba for 16 more days as they build their case based on new information. In the meantime, they are conducting an island-wide search for Gardner’s remains. The owner of the Rum Reef Bar & Grill told authorities that he spotted Giordano’s rental car on a rocky shore on the southern tip of the island on August 2, about the same time he said he and Gardner were snorkeling. An extensive search of a phosphate mine nearby turned up a pink t-shirt that was ultimately not linked to Gardner, but authorities believe they are getting closer with each search. They say they will conduct an extensive dive near where Giordano’s car was spotted over the weekend.

ABC News is now reporting that before the trip Giordano took out a $1.5 million “accidental death” insurance policy for Gardner, with Giordano named as the beneficiary.

Giordano’s troubled past will also play a crucial role in the case against him. In an assault complaint filed in Maryland, a former girlfriend, who cannot be named because of privacy restrictions in Maryland, testified that Giordano tried to kill her. According to the court documents published by ABC News, she said, "We argued about his past sexual lifestyle as a swinger. He started to choke me with both hands. He then shoved his fingers down my throat. I was struggling and gagging."

Another woman, Carrie Emerson, told NBC News that Giordano offered her daughter, Taylor Tyler, an aspiring model, $5,000 to go to Aruba in late July to do a photo shoot. Emerson said that Giordano found her daughter’s photos on a legit modeling website and then called to offer the gig. Suspicious, Emerson fielded the initial call on her daughter’s behalf, in which Giordano promised that “Its not going to be another Natalee Holloway”, referring to the Alabama teenager who disappeared from Aruba under similar circumstances in 2005.

Holloway’s disappearance was blamed on Dutch citizen Joran van der Sloot, who is now in jail in Peru waiting trial for an unrelated murder. The Natalee Holloway Foundation, set up to help families with missing children, is providing assistance to the Gardner family as they wait to find out just what happened to their daughter.