On August 2, 2011, 35-year-old Robyn Gardner vanished without a trace while on vacation in Aruba in the Caribbean.
The fears of her family, friends, and boyfriend Richard Forester back in Maryland grew when they realized that Gardner had traveled to the island of Aruba with a mysterious man named Gary Giordano on July 31. Gardner had met 50-year-old Giordano on the social-networking website Adult Friend Finder about a year before she vanished. Friends say that she decided to go on the trip after she got into an argument with Forester, and lost her job as a dental assistant.
The case made headlines because of the similarities with that of another blonde American who went missing from the island: 18-year-old Natalee Holloway, who vanished during Spring Break in 2005.
As they did in Holloway’s case, authorities searched the island on land and sea, but discovered no trace of Gardner — just a pink T-shirt and sandals.
On August 5, police arrested Giordano on suspicion of involvement in her presumed death, but released him several months later due to lack of evidence. Giordano has always denied any wrongdoing, and says Gardner was swept away by strong currents while they were spending the evening snorkeling.
Authorities attempted to piece together a timeline of Gardner’s last hours on earth. Giordano and Gardner were seen leaving the Rum Reef Bar & Grill restaurant on Baby Beach at about 4 P.M. on August 2.Two hours later, Giordano was seen alone on a security camera, wearing no shirt, but with his toupee still in place. (Authorities tracking Giordano’s movements have said that they have trouble identifying him on video because he frequently changes his toupees). Later, he called 911 to report that Gardner had disappeared after an evening snorkeling trip.
On the day of her disappearance, Gardner reportedly sent Forester, 40, a message on Facebook that promised that they would “sort things out” when she came home.
But from the beginning, Forester has voiced his doubts about Giordano’s story, saying that his girlfriend was very particular about her hair extensions and makeup and “wouldn’t go in the water above the waist, because she wouldn’t want to mess up her hair.”
Giordano was arrested at the airport. According to police, he had agreed to stay in Aruba to help the authorities, but decided to leave the day after Gardner’s mother arrived.
The mystery took yet another bizarre twist as details from the investigation emerged — including graphic photographs from Giordano’s digital camera that a source told People are “beyond pornographic.”
And CCTV footage was found that allegedly showed Gardner having a violent fight with Giordano just a few hours before she went missing. Stories have emerged about his dark past and violent temper: In 2008, Giordano’s wife cited allegations of domestic violence in their divorce, according to court records reprinted in the Aruba Herald.
Maryland court records viewed by CrimeFeed show that Giordano has also been arrested on several occasions for other charges including petty theft and indecent exposure.
In addition, since Gardner’s disappearance, several women who say they dated Giordano have come forward to describe him as a frightening man. Gardner’s best friend and roommate Christina Jones said that Giordano sent “aggressive” texts after Gardner refused to go with him on a previous cruise.
The National Enquirer claims to have heard from “an anonymous but credible phone tip” that Giordano beat Gardner, suffocated her, and buried her in a dog’s grave.
Authorities have also revealed that they are looking into a $1.5 million accidental-death insurance policy that Giordano took out on Gardner before their trip. Suspicions were raised again on August 4, just two days after Gardner was last seen alive, when Giordano reportedly called to enquire about a possible insurance payout. He later filed a lawsuit against American Express for $3.5 million for failing to pay him the death benefit.
Michael Lopez, Giordano’s attorney in Aruba, said, “There’s no proof and no motive” that his client was involved.
In 2014, Giordano appeared on Dr. Phil to promote his tell-all book, The Aruba Files: The Redemption Story of Gary V. Giordano, and said he was innocent. Giordano has never been charged in connection with Gardner’s disappearance.
Despite the compelling forensic evidence, no body has ever been found, and Gardner’s family and friends continue to search for answers. The investigation continues.
Main photo: Robyn Gardner [CBS / YouTube (screenshot)]