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Lawyer: Suspect in missing woman case to leave Aruba

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ORANJESTAD, Aruba >> A Maryland businessman who was jailed in Aruba on suspicion of involvement in the presumed death of his traveling companion intends to head home Wednesday, one of his defense lawyers said.

Gary Giordano, who has denied any wrongdoing in the disappearance and presumed death of Robyn Gardner, was released from jail Tuesday night after a judge ruled authorities lacked enough evidence to continue holding him. Prosecutors have appealed and expect a ruling Wednesday.

Aruban defense attorney Chris Lejuez said Giordano, of Gaithersburg, Md., does not intend to wait around for the ruling.

"He will be leaving today, that’s what I understood from his American attorney," Lejuez told The Associated Press.

The lawyer said he did not know Giordano’s immediate destination but said it would either be Miami, New York or home to the Washington area. Giordano is free to leave the island and a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office had said he was expected to do so but could be extradited back to Aruba if necessary.

Giordano’s American lawyer, Jose Baez, said the divorced, 50-year-old owner of an employment services business is looking forward to returning home to spend time with his family.

Baez said on ABC’s "Good Morning America" that Giordano wants to spend time with this children and plans on trying to "reassemble his life" after nearly four months in Jail.

"We’re hoping that of course this is the end of it," Baez said. "However, he’s not running. So if they have a legal basis to require him to come back, he’s going to come back."

Giordano has said that Gardner, a 35-year-old from Frederick, Md., was swept out to sea while they were snorkeling in the late afternoon Aug. 2 off the southern tip of Aruba.

Prosecutors say they are still trying to build a case against him. They say they will seek his extradition if Giordano returns to the U.S. and a three-judge appeals panel overturns the lower court ruling and orders the American back to jail.

"The case does not end here. Mr. Giordano will remain our prime suspect," Solicitor General Taco Stein said.

Aruban law allows pretrial detention while authorities investigate a crime, but it is subject to a judge’s review and the threshold of evidence necessary to hold someone increases as times goes on. A judge ruled last week that prosecutors had not met the requirement and ordered the release of Giordano.

The appeals court agreed to hear prosecutors’ challenge to the order at a closed hearing Wednesday, and authorities expect a decision later in the day.

Giordano was detained three days after reporting that Gardner was missing. Her body has never been found despite extensive searches, leaving investigators with only a circumstantial case that a crime was even committed.

Lejuez said his client has been consistent in his account of what happened.

"The prosecution conducted extensive investigations that either confirmed his story or brought up nothing relevant to the case," Lejuez told the AP. "Up to this moment there is no proof whatsoever that a crime has been committed or that Giordano may have committed a crime."

"The investigation must have yielded enough evidence to draft a charge," Stein said. "And we are not in that position yet."

The case has been compared to that of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, who disappeared on Aruba in May 2005 on the last night of her high school graduation trip to the island. Her body was also never found and the prime suspect was detained for months before he was eventually released for lack of evidence.

Kelly Reed, a cousin of Gardner’s, said the family hopes attention to the case will generate a lead that will help investigators resolve the case.

"Needless to say, our family is very disappointed that even after all this time, we are no closer to finding out what happened to our Robyn," Reed said in a statement. "We trust that the FBI and the Aruban authorities will continue their fervent efforts to investigate her disappearance."

Giordano, the divorced owner of an employment services company, first drew suspicion with what investigators felt were inconsistencies in his account of Gardner’s disappearance. Later, they learned he had taken out a $1.5 million accidental death policy on her, which Stein said was viewed as a possible motive.

Gardner’s friends and family also had serious doubts about her disappearance, saying it was unlikely she would have gone snorkeling in the first place.


Associated Press writer Ben Fox in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.


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