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Tuesday
Aug092011

Maryland Woman Vanishes Where Natalee Holloway Disappeared

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(ORANJESTAD, Aruba) -- A Maryland woman who apparently snuck away for a tryst in Aruba has disappeared in the same town where high school senior Natalee Holloway vanished six years ago.

Robyn Gardner, 35, of Frederick, Md., was reported missing last Tuesday by Gary Giordano, 50, also of Maryland.

Giordano, who has a criminal record that includes accusations of domestic violence, told police he and Gardner had been snorkeling off an Aruba beach around 6 p.m. on Aug. 2 when he swam back to shore and realized Gardner was no longer with him.

Giordano was arrested Friday as he was boarding a plane back to the U.S.

The Natalee Holloway Resource Center, which counsels individuals and families about the dangers of traveling abroad and offers help for those who are missing abroad, is working with Gardner's distraught boyfriend, Richard Forester.

Janine Vaccarello, co-founder of the center, said Holloway's mother, Beth, had been in touch with contacts in Aruba to make sure Gardner's case was being investigated.

Forester, who has been Gardner's boyfriend for the last two and a half years, told ABC News that she went to Aruba with Giordano without telling him.

"She told me she was going away on a family trip," Forester said.

Gardner and Forester remained in contact by text message and email until the day of her disappearance, he said. Forester began to get worried when Gardner stopped replying to his messages, and, on Friday, he contacted her family to find out what was going on.

Police began searching the shore and water around Oranjestad as soon as Giordano reported her missing, according to Ann Angela, spokesperson for Aruba's prosecutor's office. Police boats and helicopters, as well as coast guard teams, searched the area through Saturday, but found no evidence of Gardner. Angela said the water at Baby Beach, where the pair were snorkeling, is typically calm and gentle.

Gardner's mother flew to Aruba on Friday morning to meet with authorities and with Giordano, according to her brother, Andrew Colson. Giordano was arrested later that day as he was boarding a plane back to the U.S., Angela said.

Forester cast doubt on Giordano's story of evening snorkeling, saying his girlfriend would never have gone swimming that late.

"We went on vacations and I couldn't even get her to put her head under water in the pool. She was into makeup and hair, and knowing her she would have had a few cocktails already and would only be getting ready to go out that night," Forester said.

Forester said Gardner got divorced from her first husband in 2009. The pair had become exclusive about seven months ago, and she had been living with him six days a week in his Bethesda apartment near both of their jobs.

"We had definitely talked about marriage. We had plans to look for a new place to live" when she returned from Aruba, Forester said.

Giordano was also previously married. He divorced his wife in 2008 amid allegations of domestic violence, according to Maryland court documents. During the divorce his wife obtained an order of protection, court records show.

Court records also indicate that at least one other woman has sought an order of protection against Giordano and that he has several arrests for thefts under $500.

Giordano, who is not charged with any crime, is being held until this weekend, when he will again go before a judge. In Aruba a judge can order him held for another eight days. Giordano's lawyer in Aruba, Michael Lopez, did not return calls for comment.

Gardner's brother has started a Facebook page -- "Help Find Robyn Colson-Gardner: Missing in Aruba" -- which includes a description and pictures of the 5-foot-5, 130-pound blond, along with updates on the efforts to find his sister.

In 2005, Alabama high school senior Natalee Holloway disappeared in the same town while on a senior class trip with her school. She was never found. Holloway's family publicly criticized Aruba police for the investigation into Natalee's death.

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