Rescued Boaters Found With Blow Gun Darts, Knives in Mystery Missing Crew Case
MIAMI – Investigators found bullet casings on a charter boat whose four crew members are missing and one of the two men being held in the case had blow gun darts and knives when he was plucked from a life raft near Cuba, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
The new details came as a judge ordered the two men held without bond in the still-unsolved mystery of what happened to the crew of the fishing yacht, found adrift Sept. 25 in a remote area of the Bahamas.
Kirby Logan Archer, 35, has been charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution in connection to the robbery of an Arkansas Wal-Mart where he was a manager. Guillermo Zarabozo, 19, has been charged with lying to the FBI when he allegedly said he was not on the yacht.
The two boarded the yacht "Joe Cool" on Sept. 22 and the crew was last heard from a day later. The day after that, the Coast Guard found the pair in the boat's life raft, a few miles from the abandoned vessel.
Zarabozo had blow gun darts and knives on him when authorities found them. Federal investigators are awaiting the results of a DNA test on what appeared to be blood on the boat's stern.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Tsai said the men were found 35 miles from Cuba, a country that doesn't extradite people being sought by the United States, and had with them a "large amount" of clothes and personal belongings.
"Your honor, this is a one-way trip out of the country," Tsai told the judge.
Defense attorneys sought to discredit the charges currently facing their clients, and said no evidence has been presented to link them to a crime.
But based on circumstantial evidence, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Turnoff ruled that they pose a flight risk and are a potential danger to the community.
Authorities don't believe Zarabozo's story about the boat being hijacked on its way from Miami to Bimini, Bahamas. Zarabozo told the FBI that unknown pirates boarded the vessel and shot the captain and three crew members one by one, forcing him to throw the bodies into the sea.
The FBI affidavit does not quote either man as explaining why the supposed hijackers let them go, or why they had their luggage with them on the life raft. Zarabozo was born in Cuba and Archer, who speaks Spanish, served there as a military police investigator at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay.
Archer's court-appointed lawyer, Allan Kaiser, said his client was not trying to flee because he didn't give a false name when police stopped him for a traffic violation soon after the robbery, when he chartered the boat or during his latest arrest, he said.
Archer had left Arkansas before the warrant for his robbery arrest was issued, Kaiser said.
Public defender Faith Mesnekoff said that Zarabozo denied being on the "Joe Cool" because he didn't recognize the boat when investigators showed it to him.
"It makes no sense," Mesnekoff said, for Zarabozo to give such a detailed account of what happened but lie about being on the boat. Authorities say they found his ID on the boat.
An arraignment for the men was scheduled for Oct. 11. They were to remain at a federal detention center in Miami.
Still missing are the boat's captain, Jake Branam, 27; his wife Kelley Branam, 30; his half brother, Scott Gamble, 30; and Samuel Kairy, 27, all of Miami Beach. The Coast Guard suspended its search for them late last week.