Aruba orders release of US man suspected in death

AP News
Posted: Nov 25, 2011 5:28 PM
Aruba orders release of US man suspected in death

A U.S. businessman suspected in the August disappearance and presumed death of his traveling companion in Aruba must be released from jail next week and will be free to leave the island, a judge ruled Friday.

Gary Giordano, a 50-year-old employment agency owner from Gaithersburg, Maryland, is scheduled to be freed Tuesday without any conditions.

He has spent nearly four months in custody while investigators have sought more time to gather and evaluate evidence in the death of 35-year-old Robyn Gardner, of Frederick, Maryland. Gardner is presumed dead, but her body has not been found.

Prosecutor Taco Stein said he has appealed the judge's decision.

"It's a setback," he said. "We feel that he is still a flight risk. ... The investigation is ongoing. We need him."

Stein said prosecutors need more time to analyze information from Giordano's laptop and iPad.

He said that if Giordano is freed and leaves Aruba, they would later request his extradition from the U.S. if they could find sufficient evidence to persuade a judge to order him rearrested.

"We are determined to get to the truth of this," Stein said.

Giordano cried when he heard the judge's ruling, which was issued during a private hearing, said his attorney, Chris Lejuez.

"He would not believe that after four months, someone is finally willing to give him the benefit of the doubt," Lejuez said.

Prosecutors said they still consider Giordano a suspect, but Lejuez said his client is innocent.

"The prosecution has conducted a large number of investigations, with nonrelevant results," he said. "It is time to give someone the benefit of the doubt, especially when nothing is found to concretely accuse him."

Giordano has maintained that Gardner was swept out to sea while snorkeling on Aug. 2.

The prosecution has disclosed little of the evidence against Giordano but has said he was the beneficiary of a $1.5 million accidental death insurance policy he took out on Gardher before their trip.

In October, a judge had ruled that Giordano would remain in custody for 30 more days while prosecutors continued to investigate the case.

"I'm just going to ... hope the FBI has something on him," Gardner's boyfriend, Richard Forester of Rockville, Maryland, said Friday after hearing of the judge's ruling.

The FBI had searched Giordano's home in Maryland following his detention in Aruba. The FBI did not immediately comment Friday.


Associated Press writers Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Jessica Gresko in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.