MIAMI - A trip that began as a routine charter boat jaunt to the Bahamas turned horribly wrong somewhere on the high seas, with four crew members still missing today and two men who hired the vessel in custody.
Adding to the intrigue is passenger Kirby Logan Archer of Strawberry (Lawrence Co.). He is wanted in Batesville for allegedly stealing more than $92,000 in January from a Wal-Mart where he was an assistant manager. He also has a checkered military past: he went AWOL from the Army four years ago.
The 35-year-old Archer and 19-year-old Guillermo Zarabozo, of Hialeah, Florida, appeared in federal court today, but neither has been charged in connection with the missing people. Meanwhile, Coast Guard ships and aircraft searched hundreds of miles of open ocean in heavy rain for the crew.
The FBI is trying to determine how Archer and Zarabozo wound up in a life raft, with the 47-foot fishing charter boat "Joe Cool" adrift about 12 miles away, and no sign of the boat's crew.
Archer is charged with fleeing prosecution in Arkansas. Zarabozo was charged with lying to federal agents.
According to an FBI affidavit, Zarabozo initially claimed to his Coast Guard rescuers that "unknown subjects" had hijacked the boat, shot and killed the four crew members and then ordered Zarabozo to throw the bodies into the sea. Zarabozo later told the FBI he had never been on the "Joe Cool," even though his state identification card was found on the boat.
The affidavit also says that a substance appearing to be blood was found on the stern of the boat, along with with six marijuana cigarettes, a laptop computer, luggage, clothes and a cell phone.
The affidavit says Archer admitted that he was a fugitive and knew that he could not travel by air because his name is flagged on security lists.
Both men are being held without bail at a federal detention center in Miami. A bail hearing is set for Friday.
Court records show Archer is a former military police investigator who had been stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during the 1990s. Records from his 2005 Arkansas divorce state he went AWOL in 2003 and received a "less than honorable discharge" as a result.
Less is known about Zarabozo, other than he is a migrant from Cuba and lives with relatives in south Florida. Archer's ex-wife, Michelle Rowe, has told several media outlets that her ex-husband met Zarabozo as a boy in Cuba and may have helped him and his family reach the U.S.
Batesville attorney Chaney Taylor represents Rowe and says Rowe has had no recent contact with Archer. Taylor says Rowe has custody of the couple's two young sons.
In the court documents, Rowe contended that her husband admitted to her that he was homosexual and had affairs with five or six men. Archer, however, denied that, saying that one man mentioned by his ex-wife was merely a roommate and not a lover.
Court records also show that Archer has since remarried, to another woman named Michelle. In court today, Archer said he is now separated.