LAWFUEL – The Law Announcement Service – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Jonathan I. Solomon, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Field Division, Rear Admiral David W. Kunkel, Commander 7th Coast Guard District, Jonathan Sall, Special Agent in Charge, Coast Guard Investigative Service, Julie Torres, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Robert Parker, Director, Miami-Dade Police Department, announced today the filing of a criminal complaint charging defendants Kirby Logan Archer and Guillermo Alfonso Zarabozo with the September 22, 2007 murder in the first-degree in international waters of the captain of the Joe Cool fishing boat, his wife, and the boat’s two crew members, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1111 and 2. The defendants are expected to make their initial appearances in federal court on Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 1:30 p.m.
According to the complaint affidavit, defendants Kirby Logan Archer and Guillermo Alfonso Zarabozo chartered the fishing vessel, the Joe Cool, at the Miami Beach Marina for a trip to Bimini on September 22, 2007. The defendants paid $4,000 in cash for this voyage and claimed to be going to Bimini to meet their girlfriends on a yacht at the Big Game Resort and Yacht Club in Bimini. The boat left for Bimini on September 22, with the captain, his wife, and two crewmen.
On September 23, 2007, the United States Coast Guard found the Joe Cool adrift approximately 30 nautical miles away from Cuba. On September 24, 2007, the Coast Guard found the defendants in a life raft, but could not find the bodies of the Captain, his wife, or the two crewmen. When rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard, the defendants stated that they had been on their way to meet their girlfriends on a yacht docked in Bimini when the Joe Cool had been overtaken by three pirate-hijackers. The defendants claimed that these three pirate-hijackers killed the crew, caused their bodies to be thrown overboard, commandeered the vessel and steered it south for several hours. According to the defendants, when the Joe Cool ran out of fuel, a third boat eventually picked up the pirate-hijackers, who then allegedly left the defendants alone and unharmed aboard the Joe Cool.
The complaint details numerous inconsistent statements made by the defendants to federal agents investigating this matter. For example, defendant Zarabozo claimed not to own a gun, but evidence recovered from the search of his home showed the purchase of gun clips and ammunition In addition, witnesses observed Zarabozo in possession of a Glock pistol as recently as mid-August 2007. In addition, neither defendant could provide consistent details regarding how and when they met each other, or any identifying information regarding the girlfriends who they were supposed to meet in Bimini. Likewise, the defendants’ statements concerning what they did aboard the ship were similarly inconsistent. Lastly, both defendants stated that all four victims were shot outside the vessel’s cabin. A search of the boat, however, revealed four spent shell casings for nine-millimeter bullets, three of which were found inside the vessel’s cabin.
Forensic analysis of the four casings revealed markings consistent with their being shot with one Glock firearm. Although Zarabozo stated that he didn’t own a firearm, our search of his residence found a firearm lockbox. The lockbox contained a receipt for the purchase of a Glock bullet cartridge, or magazine, along with the purchase of four boxes of 9 mm bullets. The bullets he purchased were 9mm “Federal Casing” brand. The Glock-fired casings recovered aboard ship, likewise, were “Federal Casing” brand stamped with a “9mm” marking. Finally, a handcuff key was located on the vessel’s bow. A handcuff key was found in one of Archer’s pieces of luggage. An empty handcuff case was found in Zarabozo’s residence.
United States Attorney Acosta stated, “The forensic, historical, and circumstantial evidence of premeditated murder compels us to bring this prosecution. Although no legal proceeding can restore the lives that were tragically lost at sea, we hope that this prosecution brings some level of comfort to the families of those innocent victims.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Jonathan I. Solomon added, “This was a tragic event and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the lost crew. We hope they can take solace in the charges being filed against the defendants today, and are confident that justice will be served.”
“While we are deeply saddened that our search efforts did not result in the rescue of the Joe Cool’s crew, I have fully committed the Coast Guard’s maritime law enforcement expertise to the FBI and the United States Attorney as they investigate and prosecute this case,” said Rear Adm. David W. Kunkel, Commander of the Seventh Coast Guard District. “The Coast Guard has a long tradition of ensuring law and order is maintained on the high seas.”
“The Miami-Dade Police Department’s Crime Laboratory Bureau takes pride in the excellent relationships we have developed with other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement working together can and will continue to keep our community safe,” said Director Robert Parker, of the Miami-Dade Police Department.
Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Investigative Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Miami Dade Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Karen Gilbert, Michael Gilfarb and Jeffrey E. Tsai from the Special Prosecutions Section.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls