Robyn Gardner missing: FBI searches Gaithersburg house of Gary Giordano

Robyn Gardner has been missing in Aruba. Authorities there no longer believe the woman is alive. (Photo courtsey Andrew Colson)

(AP, ABC7) - The FBI arrived Friday evening at the{ }Gaithersburg house of Gary Giordano, the man who traveled to Aruba with Robyn Gardner. Authorities are now searching the house.

Authorities in Aruba believe Gardner is no longer alive and are seeking to extend a detention order for her travel companion as they seek witnesses who will help them build a case against him, a prosecutor on the Dutch Caribbean island said Friday.

Giordano initially reported Gardner missing and helped search for her, but has become as suspect as police have discovered inconsistencies in his statements. Giordano claims Gardner disappeared during a snorkeling trip.

ABC7 News' Brad Bell has learned about a claim made publicly on an internet posting by one of Gary Giordano's ex-girlfriends. The woman states that on a prior trip with him, he had her sign a life insurance policy with Giordano as beneficiary.

Authorities arrive at Giordano’s house Friday evening. (Photo: WJLA)

FBI agents are now investigating that claim and are trying to determine if a similar policy was taken out by Gardner and Giordano for the trip the pair took to Aruba.

Investigators have few witnesses who saw Gardner and Giordano together in Aruba before he reported her missing, said Solicitor General Taco Stein. He said Giordano told police she was apparently pulled away by the ocean current as they snorkeled off the southern tip of the island on Aug. 2.

After so many days, authorities no longer believe the 35-year-old Maryland woman could be alive, so they are holding Giordano on suspicion of involvement in her death. Her remains have not been recovered despite a search of more than four days in the sea and on the coastline in the area where she was reported missing.

"As long as we don't have a body, you can question whether or not she is dead," Stein told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "On the other hand, with all the publicity on the case, if she were still alive she would have made herself known."

Aruban police search abandoned cave

Other factors also lead to the conclusion she is dead, Stein told reporters later. Police have recovered her passport from her belongings and don't believe she could have left the island by air with a false identity. They have also found no evidence that she left Aruba by boat.

Asked why there was apparently so little active searching going on, the prosecutor said it is difficult to know where to look without more information, even on a relatively small island. Aruba is about nearly the size of Baltimore, Maryland.

Later Friday, several dozen police and firefighters searched an abandoned phosphate mine with cave-like entrances in an area near where Gardner went missing. Journalists saw a firefighter leave the mine with what appeared to be a pink shirt and sandals. But it was unclear if these were connected to the investigation.

Giordano, a 50-year-old business owner from Gaithersburg, Md., has denied any wrongdoing through his attorney. He initially helped with the search but Stein said he now declines to answer questions from investigators.

David Klein is Giordano's neighbor and has known the man for six years. "Until he's proven guilty, I can't imagine he'd do such a thing he's accused of," Klein says.

The house of Gary Giordano in Gaithersburg. (Photo: WJLA)

Giordano is a divorced father of three who promotes himself as an IT consultant to large companies and is listed as CEO of a business. Phones associated with that company are disconnected.

FBI agents have fanned out across Montgomery County to speak with women who could provide more information about Giordano's past.

Carrie Emerson says Giordano once grew angry when she refused to offer to take her daughter to Aruba ostensibly for a photo shoot.

Giordano and Gardner, who is from Frederick, Maryland, arrived in Aruba on July 31 and stayed in the same room at a Marriott hotel. Investigators have surveillance tape of them at a restaurant near Baby Beach, not far from where he says she disappeared while snorkeling. But no witnesses saw them go into the water and police have no knowledge of what else they did on the island, Stein said.

Investigators have distributed photos of the couple and are hoping anyone who saw them will contact police.

Investigators particularly need details of how the couple behaved together on the island, and whether they seemed close or quarreled. "We have very little information about what they did on the island. The information we have doesn't give us insight into their relationship," Stein said.

Giordano's lawyer, Michael Lopez, has said his client lost track of Gardner while they were snorkeling and is expected to contest the request.
"We feel we have a strong case, but what the judge will think, I don't know," Stein said.

Under Aruban law, which is based on the Dutch legal system, the judge can extend the next detention order for a maximum of eight days at a hearing scheduled for Monday.

After that period, prosecutors could ask a judge to order Giordano held for as long as 60 days while they prepare a case, but that would require more substantial evidence. Charges would be filed at the end of the 60 days if prosecutors take the case to court.

Aruba's system became familiar to many Americans who followed the disappearance in 2005 of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway. Authorities repeatedly detained individuals suspected of involvement but then later had to release them for lack of evidence. That case was never solved.