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Offshore murder case takes another turn

Disturbing sea-story of multiple slayings aboard a chartered sportfisherman now has an alleged confession

Disturbing sea-story of multiple slayings aboard a chartered sportfisherman now has an alleged confession

A jailhouse snitch has told prosecutors that Guillermo Zarabozo revealed to him that Kirby Logan Archer, Zarabozo’s alleged accomplice in the Joe Cool case, was the triggerman who killed charter Capt. Joe Branam, his wife and two crewmembers.

The information came out Dec. 19 in U.S. District Court in Miami in a prosecutor’s motion to take the public defender’s office off the Joe Cool case. Prosecutors say Miami public defenders also had represented the jailhouse informant, and this was a conflict of interest. That informant, already a convicted felon, was in jail for firearms possession and was subsequently convicted.

The court filing says Zarabozo told the informant he and Archer chartered the 47-foot Joe Cool from Miami to Bimini with the intention of diverting the boat to Cuba, where Archer — facing charges of stealing $92,600 from an Arkansas Wal-Mart — thought he would be safe from extradition to the United States.

In the court filings, Zarabozo tells the informant that when Archer tried to get Branam to change course to Cuba, the two argued, Archer reached into Zarabozo’s luggage, took out a firearm and threatened Branam. The arguing continued until Branam’s wife, Kelley Sue, said she was calling the Coast Guard. That’s when Archer shot Branam, his wife, and crewmembers Scott Gamble and Samuel Kairy, according to the informant’s account. Zarabozo reportedly told the informant that he then agreed to throw the bodies overboard and clean the boat because Archer had used Zarabozo’s gun to commit the murders.

Archer, meanwhile, reportedly was having trouble driving the boat and became angry and frustrated because they couldn’t find all the spent bullet casings. Finally, they decided to load their luggage into a life raft and make their way to Cuba that way. Once in the raft, they threw two guns overboard, according to the informant.

The information is “very unreliable, highly dubious,” says Archer’s Miami attorney, Humberto Dominguez. “This is a guy in a cell confessing to a guy in the cell next to him — through a wall? The whole situation is extremely suspect.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Gilbert, who filed the motion with the informant’s account in it, says her office could not comment on pending litigation.

The Coast Guard found Joe Cool adrift about 40 miles off Cuba’s northwest coast Sept. 23, the day after it departed Miami. The raft with Archer and Zarabozo aboard was found about a dozen miles away. The bodies were never recovered.

For more on the incident, which Soundings detailed in the December issue, search the story archives at . Keyword: Joe Cool.