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Kirby Archer and Guillermo Zarabozo hijacked and murdered the crew of Joe Cool: ID investigates

Police tape

Dark Waters: Murder in the Deep is investigating a case of murder and piracy on the high seas when Kirby Logan Archer and Guillermo Zarabozo hijacked the Joe Cool from Miami, Florida, and killed the crew of four.

Archer and Zarabozo murdered Jake Branam, Kelley Branam, Scott Gamble, and Samuel Kairy and dumped their bodies in the Caribbean Sea. Their remains have never been recovered.

In September 2007, a charter boat called the Joe Cool set out from its homeport of Miami to Bimini in the Bahamas. The ship was crewed by husband and wife team Jake and Kelley Branam, Gamble and Kairy.

There were also two passengers on board who had chartered the boat saying they were off to meet their girlfriends at Bimini; they were Kirby Logan Archer and Guillermo Zarabozo.

When the ship failed to return to Miami, the coast guard initiated a search for the vessel which they found on September 24, drifting approximately 18 miles off the coast of Cuba.

There was no sign of the four crew members, but Archer and Zarabozo were found on a life raft nearby. On the boat, the investigators found shell casings and bloodstains. The two so-called survivors claimed they had been attacked by Cuban pirates.

Location of Joe Cool on a map of the Caribbean
Pic credit: FBI

However, the FBI were brought in on the case, and they weren’t buying this story. For one thing, pirates would not have left credit cards, electronics, and $70,000 worth of fishing gear on the Joe Cool.

Kirby Logan Archer was trying to flee the USA

It later transpired that Archer was a fugitive on the run from the law in Arkansas. Archer had been a customer services manager at Walmart but was facing a charge of stealing thousands of dollars from his former employer. And he was also facing a charge of child molestation.

The police believe that Archer and Zarabozo murdered the four crew members and dumped their bodies into the sea. But their plot to reach Cuba failed as the boat ran out of fuel, and they abandoned ship.

Zarabozo’s role in this ridiculous and tragic escapade remains a bit unclear. He claims that Archer told him he was a CIA agent and needed his help for a mission to Cuba. It’s thought that Zarabozo may have harbored delusions of becoming a secret agent himself.

However, the investigators concluded that Zarabozo owned the firearm used in the murders, meaning that he too, along with Archer, was charged with murder.

Archer eventually pleaded guilty to two of the murders and was sent to prison for the rest of his life. However, Zarabozo has maintained that he had nothing to do with the murders and was fooled by Archer. His first trial ended in a hung jury.

Zarabozo was put on trial again in 2009, and this time, a jury convicted him of murder and kidnapping. He will serve a mandatory life sentence.

More from Investigation Discovery

Follow the links to read about more murders profiled on ID.

Shane Young shot dead Ken Horton and held four women from four different generations of the Mann family hostage when he went looking for his ex-girlfriend. He wounded his hostages and two officers before he was taken into custody.

Theophilus Brooks brutally murdered Erica Vassell after a Super Bowl party in Clewiston, Florida, in 2011. He then dumped her remains by the side of the road in a neighboring county.

Dark Waters: Murder in the Deep airs at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.

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