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Aruba: An island in the storm

Sunday - 10/16/2011, 9:52am  ET

Robyn Colson Gardner (Courtesy of Facebook)
Robyn Gardner, 35, has been missing since Aug. 2 and is presumed dead. (File Photo)

Part 1

WTOP's Del Walters looks at how this case has affected the tiny Caribbean island.

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Part 2

WTOP's Del Walters looks at the relationship between tourists and the island.

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Part 3

WTOP's Del Waters takes a look at the economic impact of the Robyn Gardner disappearance.

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Part 4

WTOP's Del Walters takes a look at the case against Gary Giordano.

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Part 5

WTOP's Del Walters takes us to the the place where it all began.

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WASHINGTON - Robyn Gardner went missing more than two months ago after traveling to Aruba with Gary Giordano. She is presumed dead, and he has been detained as a suspect since early August.

Giordano, 50, called police in Aruba around 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 2 to say that he and Gardner, 35, got separated while snorkeling and she never made it back to shore.

Giordano, an owner of a temporary staffing business from Gaithersburg, Md., traveled to Aruba with Gardner, from Frederick, Md., on July 31 and reported her missing two days later. He told police that she disappeared while the two were snorkeling.

He initially assisted the search but was detained at the airport Aug. 5 as he tried to leave Aruba. Authorities said they found discrepancies in his story. Giordano has denied any wrongdoing through his attorney. And then there's the issue of the travel insurance he took out and reportedly tried to collect.

WTOP's Del Walters has traveled to Aruba to look at how this latest missing person's case has affected the tiny Caribbean island.

Aruba wants to see itself as a happy place. A warm, sunny place welcoming to tourists from across the world.

But Gardner's disappearance is the second mark on the tiny island's otherwise pristine image. First Natalee Holloway and now Robyn Gardner. In both cases an attractive young tourist disappears, and in both cases, no one can seem to find the body.

Gary V. Giordano's account of the disappearance of his travel partner, Robyn Gardner, had enough inconsistencies that authorities decided they couldn't let him leave the Caribbean island and arrested him, Aruban Solicitor General Taco Stein said.

A judge ruled Aug. 31 that there was enough evidence for authorities to detain Giordano for at least 60 days while prosecutors pursue evidence against him. An appeals court upheld that decision a week later.

Giordano's lawyer has challenged that ruling multiple times. The latest appeal was Monday.

Like most of the Caribbean Islands, Aruba depends on tourism to survive.

Fritz Israel, the island's Director of Tourism, says about 70 or 80 percent of their economy comes from tourism.

1.5 million tourists visit Aruba each year. 75 percent of those tourists come from the U.S.

Aruba has changed. This was Walters's fifth trip to the island. He says there is new security where he stays, a guard watches the compound at night.

There is an uneasy calm, when approached most merchants smile, and politely say no comment.

One who did speak to Walters says the island was just fully recovering from Natalee Holloway's disappearance when Gardner went missing. He says it's like Holloway's case never ended, and he just wants some closure.

As the world awaits answers, Aruba continues its search for a killer, while at the same time seeking to guard its reputation and economic way of life.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP and the Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)