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Update: New Information About Two Men Found At Sea

Two men picked up in a life raft after hiring a Miami Beach charter boat whose four-member crew disappeared over the weekend were charged late Tuesday with federal crimes. Kirby Archer, 35, of Strawberry, Ark., was charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Guillermo Zarabozo, 19, of Hialeah, was charged with giving a false statement to a federal agent. Both were taken to federal prison in Miami.

Archer, a former customer service manager at an Arkansas Wal-Mart, is accused of stealing $92,000 from the store by sneaking it out in a microwave oven in January. The Joe Cool, the 47-foot sportfisher boat at the center of the mystery, was towed back to866-boat2embeddedprod_affiliate56.jpg Miami Beach as well. Federal agents, who are investigating the disappearance of the Joe Cool’s crew, were mum on what Archer and Zarabozo, plucked from a life raft on Monday, have had to say under questioning.

Meanwhile, details emerging from family, neighbors and co-workers of the two men — in both rural Arkansas and a hardscrabble section of Hialeah — indicate that Archer befriended Zarabozo’s family in the mid-1990s. Then a boy, Zarabozo and his parents and sister were trying to escape Cuba, and Archer was a military police investigator at Guantánamo Bay, according to Archer’s ex-wife, Michelle Rowe.

”I can’t be 100 percent sure, but I think this is the same boy he met in Guantánamo and told me he had grown very close to,” Rowe told The Miami Herald. Archer’s current wife, Michelle Archer, said her husband knew a ”Guillermo” in Miami. Zarabozo’s mother confirmed Tuesday that her son knew Archer — and said Archer had visited their home years ago. Meanwhile Tuesday, the Coast Guard moved its search for the four crew members farther north to waters off Palm Beach County, three days after the U.S. Coast Guard found the Joe Cool in the Florida Straits, about 40 miles north of Cuba. The missing are captain Jake Branam, 27; his wife, Kelley Branam, 30; Branam’s half-brother Scott Gamble, 35; and first mate Samuel Kairy, 27, all of Miami Beach.

”Unfortunately, the clock is ticking,” cautioned Petty Officer James Judge.

Relatives of the Branams hired a helicopter Tuesday and flew a stretch of the Florida Straits. Back on land, they said the couple’s daughter was calling for her mommy and daddy.


Rowe, who divorced Archer in 2005, told The Miami Herald that her husband is fluent in Spanish and may have wanted to take the charter boat to Cuba. Coast Guard officials say the GPS navigational device on board the Joe Cool indicates it was headed from Miami Beach to Bimini, then made a sudden turn south toward Cuba.

Rowe said she called authorities in Miami to alert them about her ex-husband. ”I’m not a scorned lover, but he’s a piece of s—,” she said. “And people should know.”

Arkansas court records show that their divorce was bitter. She alleged they moved to Arkansas in December 2003 because Archer was AWOL from the Army, something he later confirmed in his testimony. The AWOL matter was resolved, and he was discharged from the military.

In testimony, she accused him of physically abusing her during their marriage — allegations he denied.

She also testified that after they separated in 2003, she entered into a lesbian relationship and that Archer began a relationship with a man named Greg. She also said Archer was “with five or six other gay men during that time.”

The testimony is summarized in a Arkansas court of appeal order of Jan. 31, 2006, that kept the couple’s two children in the custody of Archer.

Rowe said she eventually won custody of their two sons, however.

Archer testified that he was not gay — but Rowe testified that he was and that one of his relationships was with a high school boy. She said in an interview that she is not gay and that her poor relationship with Archer ”drove” her into a relationship with another woman.

Rowe told The Miami Herald that Archer had met a young boy and his family in 1995 or 1996 while he was in the U.S. Army and stationed at Guantánamo Naval Base.

At the time, the Cuban family had tried to leave the island on rafts. They had apparently been intercepted at sea and taken to the base, where Archer took an interest in the boy, then 6 or 7 years old, Rowe said.

”He told me about the boy. He said he took him under his wing. He stayed in touch with him all this time,” Rowe said. “The boy even came to visit him in Arkansas.”

Michelle Archer, Archer’s current wife, said he is a “wonderful father.”

She said she last saw her husband Jan. 26, the night he allegedly walked out of the Batesville, Ark., Wal-Mart with $92,000 in cash and disappeared.

”I talked to him that last night,” she said, “and the last thing he told me was to remember that he loved me. . . . We had a good relationship, a good marriage. I don’t know what happened.”


She thought she recognized the name of Guillermo Zarabozo. “I think it’s a kid of a friend that he helped bring over to the U.S., back when he was stationed in Cuba. I’m not positive on that.”

In Hialeah Tuesday evening, where Zarabozo lives in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with his parents and 12-year old sister, his mother confirmed her son knew Archer.

Francisca Zarabozo spoke as she wiped tears from her face. ”My son is a good kid,” she said.

Archer ”had only been to the house once, and that was years ago,” she said. “Not just anyone is allowed to come into our house.”

She said she has not heard from her son since his arrest and that authorities have not contacted her.

”I am praying to God that he’s OK. This is the worst feeling in the world a mother can feel,” she said. “He’s a good kid; people need to know he’s a good kid.”

An appeal in a custody fight obtained by Local 10 may prove that the two men found adrift at sea knew each other for years.The FBI took Guillermo Zarabozo, 19, and Kirby Archer, 35, into custody in the mystery at sea regarding the missing crew of a charter fishing vessel Tuesday. New information could possibly shed light on the two men and what happened aboard the Joe Cool.Zarabozo and Archer, the two clients of the chartercoolboat.jpg Joe Cool, were questioned aboard a Coast Guard cutter then brought to Miami Beach Coast Guard base around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. About 10 minutes later, the 47-foot sportfisher Joe Cool was brought in, pulled by a smaller Coast Guard vessel.

The Joe Cool was discovered near the Cay Sal banks, some 100 miles south of its destination in the Bahamas early Sunday evening. On Monday, the two men who chartered the trip were found about 12 miles from that site on the vessel’s life raft.The two men were questioned by FBI agents Monday night, who were flown out to sea to board the Coast Guard cutter Pea Island, the boat which carried the two men back to land. Two other agents were charged with inspecting the Joe Cool, but there is no word on what, if anything, was found, according to Local 10’s Glenna Milberg.Two cutters and two aircraft continue to search for the four crew members still missing. The missing crew are Capt. Jake Branam, his wife, Kelly, crew member and half brother Scott Campbell and Capt. Samuel Kairy.Meanwhile, Archer is wanted in Arkansas on charges of stealing more than $92,000 from the Wal-Mart where he worked until he disappeared last January. Hisjoecool2.jpg picture on a flier from the Independence County (Ark.) Sheriff’s Department was discovered by the boat captain’s uncle, Jeff Branam, who entered Archer’s name on Internet search engine Google.Local 10 has learned that Archer was due in court the week he disappeared on other felony charges.Detectives in Independence County believed Archer could try to flee to Cuba. He went AWOL from the military and had been stationed at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Police believe he speaks fluent Spanish.In a custody dispute between Archer and ex-wife, Michelle Christine Archer, the woman alleges that Archer had numerous homosexual relationships, one of which was a teenage boy he met while in the military.Zarabozo is a graduate of Hialeah High School. During the 2004-05 school year, he was an operations commander of his Jr. ROTC program and took classes in aviation at the school’s magnet program.

Course Of Events

Coast Guard agents and family members pieced together the course of events.The two would-be customers approached the crew of the the sportfisher Joe Cool at slip D-30 Friday evening trying to hire a ride to Bimini, where they said they were to meet their girlfriends. They agreed to pay $4,000 for the trip.Cousin and co-worker Jon Branam said he noticed that the customers, who said they were construction surveyors, peeled the money off in $20 bills.”What are they doing with $4,000 in 20s working for a survey company?” he said. When the charter did not return by its noon Sunday deadline, the family became concerned.

Reported Missing

Jeff Branam reported the vessel and those aboard missing at about 5:45 p.m. Sunday.Coast Guard agents aboard a search helicopter spotted the vessel about 7 p.m., near the Cay Sal banks Sunday evening, drifting, dragging anchor and abandoned.”Everything on the vessel was in complete disarray, thrown around. It looked like whoever had been on the vessel left in a hurry,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer James Judge.He said a check of the boat’s global positioning system indicated the vessel had made erratic movements about halfway to Bimini, then turned sharply south.Zarabozo and Archer were the only two in the life raft spotted by helicopter Monday morning.


3 Responses

  1. The crew are in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. same here ang

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