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Video: Boyfriend speaks out about woman missing in Aruba

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    MATT LAUER, co-host: But we want to begin this half-hour with those new details in the case of a Maryland woman who is missing in Aruba . NBC 's Tom Costello has the latest on this story. Tom , good morning.

    TOM COSTELLO reporting: Hi , Matt , good morning to you. This case is eerily similar in some ways to the case of Natalee Holloway , who disappeared in Aruba some six years ago. Only in this case, 35-year-old Robyn Gardner apparently left Bethesda , Maryland , where we are now, on her way to Aruba without telling her boyfriend. Now the man she travelled with, 50-year-old Gary Giordano , is under arrest. That's Gary Giordano on Baby Beach in Aruba , telling police he last saw Robyn Gardner while they snorkeled together on August 2nd ; but, he claims, she never came back to shore. When Giordano tried to leave Aruba on Friday he was arrested. His attorney in Aruba is Michael Lopez .

    Mr. MICHAEL LOPEZ: My client has been detained for -- as a suspect for a murder investigation. He did give the police, meanwhile, all kinds of cooperation.

    COSTELLO: Robyn Gardner met Giordano on match.com a year ago, and agreed to fly to Aruba after she lost her job recently. But she already had a boyfriend, Richard Forester . She told him she was going to Florida to see family. Now he fears for her safety.

    Mr. RICHARD FORESTER (Robyn Gardner's Boyfriend): I'm not angry at her. If she's found and she's brought back to me, yeah, I'll be angry then. But right now that doesn't -- that's not even a factor.

    COSTELLO: Back in Maryland , Gary Giordano has a violent history: allegations of domestic violence against an ex-wife, and Maryland court records reveal two restraining orders requested by previous girlfriends. One claimed, "He started to hit me on my face, neck, breast and buttocks. He started to choke me with both hands." Another reported Giordano threatened her and said, "The world would be better off without me and he could help." In 2003 , Giordano was convicted for shoplifting electronics. Now the FBI has joined the

    investigation in Aruba. Former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt: Giordano is alleged to have had a history of violence with past girlfriends. The authorities have to both look at that as well as look at any evidence that's going to suggest they left a hotel together or he left by himself.

    Mr. CLINT VAN ZANDT: Robyn 's disappearance is an eerie reminder of 18-year-old Natalee Holloway 's disappearance in Aruba in 2005 . Joran van der Sloot , the last person to see Natalee alive, was never charged. Today he's in prison in Peru , accused of another murder. But the Natalee Holloway Resource Center says despite Aruba 's concern about the impact on tourism, Robyn Gardner 's disappearance also needs publicity.

    COSTELLO: No matter what they want and what they think is right, it is important that we get the media involved.

    Ms. JANINE VACCARELLO (Natalee Holloway Resource Center): Aruba , of course, is a Dutch territory. We are told that Robyn Gardner 's BlackBerry and iPod have been turned over to the police, and they've actually sent the Blackberry to the Netherlands for a more thorough analysis.

    COSTELLO: Tom Costello , thank you very much . Robyn Gardner 's boyfriend Richard Forester is with us now. Mr. Forester , good morning to you.

    Matt: Good morning.

    LAUER: Tell me a little bit about your relationship with Robyn . How long had you been dating her before she took this trip?

    Mr. FORESTER: Well, we've been together for about two and a half years, but fairly exclusive, I guess, since about January of 2011 .

    LAUER: Now, she told you she was on a trip, she was going to go see family members in Florida . It turns out that's not where she was. How did you find that out?

    Mr. FORESTER: I found that out once I had spoken to a family member when they told me that she'd been reported missing.

    LAUER: And then didn't she also send you a text or an e-mail at some point, in fact, admitting that she was in Aruba ? And at that time, did she also admit she was there with someone else?

    Mr. FORESTER: No. I did get a -- I did get an e-mail saying that she was in Aruba , but it was just a change of plans as far as where they were going.

    LAUER: Mr. Forester , have you ever heard of Gary Giordano ? Have you ever met him? Do you know anything about him?

    Mr. FORESTER: I have never met him. I had heard his name before, and I was under the assumption it was just a friend.

    LAUER: So when you got that e-mail that she was in Aruba , she added no other information, she didn't talk about being fearful, that she was concerned about her safety, nothing that might help in this investigation?

    Mr. FORESTER: No. I'll tell you, not when I got that e-mail. On Tuesday morning, on the second of August, a little bit after 2 in the morning, she had posted a note, a message on my Facebook wall saying, "This sucks." I didn't get it until the morning when I got to work. And I questioned her, I didn't know what it was, but she didn't respond. I e-mailed her throughout the day. And then later on in the day, between, probably, I don't know, somewhere around 3 in the afternoon she sent me an inbox message on my Facebook saying, you know, "I love you. I care about you. We'll talk about this and sort it out when I get back."

    LAUER: But it seems like she left a lot more questions than answers.

    Mr. FORESTER: Yes.

    LAUER: Now, when you hear that Mr. Giordano has told authorities that the two of them went snorkeling and she didn't return to the beach when he did, he then tried to leave Aruba , you think -- you say that that has to be a lie. And why do you say that?

    Mr. FORESTER: Just know -- just knowing her, Matt. I believe that she's too concerned about her hair, about her makeup. At that point in the evening, afternoon, being in a place like Aruba somewhere, she's probably had a couple of drinks and she's not going to stop to go swimming in the ocean at that point. She's probably going to be getting ready to go out for dinner for the evening. But I just know she's not -- she's never been a fan of snorkeling. She said she may do it, but she wasn't that interested. She is a swimmer, but would prefer to be in a swimming pool. Now, being in a place like Aruba , that might be a little bit different. But I just don't accept for one minute that she was snorkeling. Also, the story, from what I understand, had changed to -- from when they were snorkeling to they walked out to a point where the water was almost above their heads, and that's when they decided to swim back to shore. When he got back to shore, turned around and she -- he couldn't see her, he couldn't find her.

    LAUER: I ask this, and I hope you understand the tone that I ask it with. You seem to know her very well about what she would and wouldn't do, and yet it comes as a surprise to you that she would actually be in Aruba with another man.

    Mr. FORESTER: You're right. You're absolutely right. I do feel like I know her very well. She was going through some tough times. She had lost her job recently. So I really can't say where her mind was at, at that point. My biggest concern isn't that she was there with another man, that's to me -- obviously, I mean, that's an issue. But my biggest concern is that she's found and she's found safely, and I'm able to have that discussion with her.

    LAUER: And when you -- when you hear allegations that Mr. Giordano has perhaps been violent or threatened other women in the past, do you fear that he has in some ways brought harm to her?

    Mr. FORESTER: Very much so. Very much so. I've done my own research, I've had people come out from his past who have contacted me and told me some pretty bad details. So I definitely have a very bad feeling. But at the same time, I just try to stay optimistic and hopeful that she'll be back and return home safely.

    LAUER: Richard Forester . Mr. Forester , I appreciate your time this morning. Thank you very much .

    Mr. FORESTER: Thank you.


TODAY contributor
updated 8/11/2011 3:17:27 PM ET 2011-08-11T19:17:27

The boyfriend of a Frederick County, Md., woman who vanished in Aruba nine days ago expressed serious doubts about her companion’s story that she disappeared in the ocean while the pair were out snorkeling.

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“I don’t accept for one minute that she was snorkeling,” Richard Forester told Matt Lauer of his girlfriend, Robyn Gardner, live via satellite on TODAY Thursday.

Forester told Lauer that Gardner at first lied to him about her trip, originally telling him she was headed to Florida to visit family. Actually, she was visiting Aruba with Gary Giordano, a man she had met on an online dating site a year earlier.

Suspicious story
According to the Associated Press, Giordano, 50, contacted police around 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 2 and told them he and Gardner got separated while snorkeling and that she never made it back to shore. But authorities found enough inconsistencies in Giordano’s account that they arrested him when he attempted to leave Aruba on Friday.

On Thursday afternoon an FBI spokesman said that the bureau is assisting Aruba law enforcement in investigating the disappearance, conducting interviews and providing other support. Aruban Solicitor General Taco Stein said that investigators believe that if Gardner had drowned in the area as Giordano indicates, her body would have surfaced by now.

Forester told Lauer he has strong suspicions himself about Giordano’s story, believing his 35-year-old girlfriend wouldn’t be swimming, much less snorkeling, that late in the afternoon.

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“She’s too concerned about her hair, about her makeup; at this point in the [day], being in a place like Aruba, she’s probably had a couple of drinks and she’s not going to stop to go swimming in the ocean,” Forester said.

“She’s probably getting ready to go out to dinner, [out] for the evening. She’s never been a fan of snorkeling … she wasn’t that interested. She is a swimmer, but would prefer to be in a pool.”

Checkered past
The case, which eerily echoes the disappearance of American Natalee Holloway in Aruba six years ago, took an ominous turn when court records surfaced that Giordano has a criminal record and has had at least two orders of protection taken out against him from women who claim he was violent toward them.

Lauer asked Forester if Giordano’s checkered past gives him cause for concern about his girlfriend’s disappearance.

Image: Gary V. Giordano, speaks with Aruba police detectives
Elton Malone  /  AP
Gary Giordano, left, speaks with Aruba police detectives on Aug. 3 about the disappearance of his travel partner, Robyn Gardner. Suspecting his account, police have detained Giordano.

“Very much so,” he replied. “I’ve had people come out from his past who have contacted me and told me some pretty bad details, so I definitely have a very bad feeling. [But] at the same time I just try to stay optimistic and hopeful that she’ll be back and returned safely.”

Story: Md. man faces more questions in woman's disappearance in Aruba

Forester told Lauer he had never met Giordano, though he had heard Gardner mention him. “I was under the impression it was just a friend,” he said.

A friend of Gardner’s has also stated she believed Gardner and Giordano were platonic. Forester said Gardner sent him an email while in Aruba saying she had a change of plans from visiting family in Florida.

Robyn Gardner with Richard Forester, who fears for her safety.

But the day of her disappearance, he got a somewhat more concerning message. “A little after 2 in the morning, she posted a message on my Facebook wall saying, ‘This sucks,’ ” Forester told Lauer. “I didn’t get it until the morning when I got to work. I questioned her, but she didn’t respond.”

Video: Boyfriend speaks out about woman missing in Aruba (on this page)

But Forester finally did hear back from Gardner around 3 p.m., just hours before Giordano reported her missing. “She sent me an inbox message on Facebook saying, ‘I love you, I care about you and we’ll talk about this and sort it out when we get back.’ ”

Lauer asked Forester if the fact his girlfriend had gone to a resort country with another man troubled him. And while Forester acknowledged it did, he noted that Gardner has been going through emotionally trying times lately.

“She had lost her job recently, so I really can’t say where her mind was at at that point,” he said. “My biggest concern isn’t that she was there with another man. That’s an issue, but my biggest concern is that she’s found safely and I’m able to have that discussion with her.”

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.

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