Dark Passage

Six set sail on the Joe Cool hoping for better luck. Only two saw land again.

When Kelley arrived in St. Louis, she was severely dehydrated and had to be hospitalized briefly. She flew back to Miami in early October, then called her mom after a few days. "Jake and I are getting married," she told Leanne. "We need to get insurance for the baby."

Kelley and Jake were wed on the beach in Miami on October 14. Kelley wore a dress she borrowed from a friend. They said their vows before a minister and a witness — no family, because Jake and Kelley feared Jeannette's reaction, Leanne says. (Attempts to interview Jeannette Branam were unsuccessful.) A few days later, Jake called Leanne and asked if Kelley could stay with her in St. Louis for a month or two while he traveled to North Carolina to work on the yacht. He didn't think it was good for the pregnant Kelley and their baby to stay behind on Star Island.

Kelley spent only a month in St. Louis before returning to Miami in November. According to Leanne, Kelley was depressed for much of that time and often fought with Jake on the phone. "I liked Jake as a person, and he was a great fishing-boat captain," Leanne says. "But he really wasn't good husband material."

The Joe Cool fishing yacht was found empty, floating in the ocean, by the Coast Guard on September 22. It was later towed to the Miami Beach Marina.
Al Diaz/Miami Herald/MCT/Newscom
The Joe Cool fishing yacht was found empty, floating in the ocean, by the Coast Guard on September 22. It was later towed to the Miami Beach Marina.
Two men, Kirby Archer and Guillermo Zarabozo (right, in a federal courtroom sketch three days after they were fished from a life raft), have been charged with murdering the Joe Cool's four crew members.
AP Photo/Shirley Henderson
Two men, Kirby Archer and Guillermo Zarabozo (right, in a federal courtroom sketch three days after they were fished from a life raft), have been charged with murdering the Joe Cool's four crew members.

Still, the young family was intact; Jake, Kelley, and Taylor lived together on Star Island as 2007 dawned. On May 16, Kelley gave birth to a calm baby boy with sand-colored hair, named Morgan.


In Batesville, Arkansas, it was colder than usual on January 26, 2007. Kirby Archer, a 34-year-old customer-service manager at a local Wal-Mart, was finishing his shift around 9:30 that night. Archer asked a cashier to help collect money from the registers. He put several bags of cash into a shopping cart: $92,000. Usually at that point, a cashier escorted him to a back room for safety, but on this night, he did something odd, the cashier said: He told her to clock out and go home.

As soon as she left, Archer brought a new microwave oven to the back room and stuffed money inside the box. He toted it through the store to a cash register, where a coworker rang it up, including an employee discount. Archer paid cash. A surveillance camera in the parking lot showed him loading the box into his Ford pickup. He drove to his aunt's and uncle's house and put the microwave box into a blue 1991 Dodge Caravan. Then he sent a text message to his second wife, Michaele: "I really messed up. Remember, I love you!"

Around midnight, Archer was stopped for speeding in Bono, Arkansas, about 30 miles from Batesville. An officer cited him and let him drive off, unaware that police a few towns away were already searching for the alleged Wal-Mart thief.

After police issued a warrant for Archer's arrest, people in his hometown of Strawberry, Arkansas, a few miles from Batesville, began to whisper.

In 1993, when he was living in Arizona, Archer was convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor, for keeping Michaele, then 15, out after curfew. He seemed to clean up his act after that as he enlisted in the Army and served as a military investigator at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In 1998, he married another woman, Michelle. A year later, the couple had their first child, a boy, and in 2000, Michelle gave birth to a second son. Three years later, Kirby Archer went AWOL from the Army and was dishonorably discharged. The family moved to Arkansas, and then the marriage dissolved. It was a sordid divorce, documents show: Michelle confessed to lesbian relationships but also claimed that Archer had a tryst with a high school boy and that he had sex with his niece and fathered a child. In court, Archer denied having sex with his niece. Still, he was listed as his niece's child's father on the birth certificate. And then there was the police investigation: Arkansas detectives were probing multiple child-sex-abuse allegations against Archer. The claims were serious enough that Archer was no longer allowed unsupervised visits with his two children by Michelle, and they imperiled his battle for custody of the boys. It was about this time that Archer married Michaele, the girl from Arizona.

Archer's new wife, family, and friends had no idea where he went after the Wal-Mart theft was uncovered in January 2007; he seemed to have vanished without a trace. Then he resurfaced 1,100 miles away, in Hialeah, Florida. He visited the Zarabozo family, whom he'd met in Guantánamo in the early 1990s. Archer was particularly close to the family's youngest son, Guillermo, who was 8 when he and Archer met and bonded in what was then a refugee camp on the U.S. military base. Archer stayed in touch with the boy after that, with Guillermo at one point visiting Archer in Arkansas. After Guillermo graduated from Hialeah High School in 2006, the 18-year-old lived with his mom in a shabby pink condominium not far from the MacArthur Causeway and found work as a security guard.

After Archer showed up in Hialeah, an in-store security camera captured him walking into Lou's Gun Shop and Police Supply with Guillermo Zarabozo on September 12, 2007; court records show that the pair bought two gun cartridge clips in the Miami store that day. Eight days later, Zarabozo bought cell-phone airtime and a SIM card under the name Michael Zoiou at a Coral Gables phone store. That evening, Archer and Zarabozo went to Monty's, a bar overlooking the Miami Beach Marina, where luxury condos loomed above them and million-dollar yachts were docked just feet away. Then they got a room at a faded Days Inn in Hialeah.

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