Four of the Six Crew Members Aboard the Joe Cool Boat Vanished in 2007 — Here's What Happened

Six people boarded a boat and four of them vanished. All that remained was two men on a lifeboat and an ocean of lies.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

May 31 2024, Published 7:29 p.m. ET

Coast Guard boards the Joe Cool boat
Source: YouTube/Associated Press (video still)

Coast Guard boards the Joe Cool boat

According to NBC News, a crew of six boarded the Joe Cool fishing boat on Sept. 22, 2007 from Miami. They were headed to the Bahamas but 24 hours later, no one one could reach any of the people on board. It only took a day for the Coast Guard to begin searching the waters for the missing boat. When the Joe Cool was located, the state of it told a harrowing story. There was blood and bullet casings in the vessel, but that was it. The crew was gone.

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The Coast Guard quickly found two of the six passengers floating in a lifeboat not too far from the Joe Cool. After getting them onto a helicopter, the survivors shared a wild and disjointed story that included murder. Who are the Joe Cool boat killers and where are the now? Here's what we know.

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Before we get into the Joe Cool boat killers, let's break down what happened.

The two men were 18 year-old Guillermo Zarabozo and 35 year-old Kirby Logan Archer, and they were the ones who charted the Joe Cool. Zarabozo told authorities that the boat had been hijacked by Cuban pirates. This immediately gave them pause because despite the fact that the boat had been torn apart, nothing was missing, per the FBI. Law enforcement also found bullet shell casings and blood on the vessel.

All of the evidence was circumstantial, but authorities were able to arrest Archer because he had a warrant pending in the state of Arkansas for stealing $92,000 from a Walmart where he was employed. This provided the FBI with a motive. The second they told Archer that the death penalty was being pushed as an option, he began talking.

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In exchange for a plea deal that would involve no death penalty, Archer told authorities that he met Zarabozo at an auto shop where he was working security. Zarabozo often fantasized about joining the military or some arm of law enforcement, which made it easy for him to buy the lie Archer was about to sell him. The older man told the gullible young security guard that he was in the CIA and if Zarabozo helped him get to Cuba, a job with the agency would be waiting for him.

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Forensic testing of the blood resulted in four matches for the missing crew members. The bullet shell casings were from a 9mm gun owned by Zarabozo, who maintained he didn't kill anyone. Authorities realized that they had always planned to hijack the boat and "e-mail evidence recovered from a computer hard drive between Zarabozo, his girlfriend, and friends showed that he knew all along about going to Cuba, believing that he was joining a CIA mission," per the FBI.

Where are Kirby Archer and Guillermo Zarabozo now?

In October 2008, CBS 4 reported that Archer was sentenced to five consecutive life terms after being found guilty of "four counts of first-degree murder, kidnapping, illegal seizure of a maritime vessel and other charges," per the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Jonathan Branam, whose cousin was the captain, said in a statement, "It's not going to bring anyone back, but I think justice is going to be served."

Seven months later, Zarabozo was sentenced to five consecutive life prison sentences plus 85 years, reported The Ledger. Throughout his trial, Zarabozo consistently said he did not kill anyone and blamed the murders entirely on Archer. "When I got onto that boat, I didn't know what Archer was going to do," Zarabozo said to the judge. "I had no intention of hurting anybody." The prosecution found this difficult to believe based on the fact that Zarabozo brought a gun on board.

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