World

No bail for pair held in Florida yacht crew mystery

A judge in Miami ordered two men held without bail Tuesday in the disappearance of four crew members of a charter boat that was found adrift last Wednesday in a remote area of the Bahamas.

A judge in Miami ordered two men held without bail Tuesday in the disappearance of four crew members of a charter boat that was found adrift last Wednesday in a remote area of the Bahamas.

Kirby Logan Archer, 35, and Guillermo Zarabozo, 19, boarded the fishing yacht "Joe Cool" on Sept. 22 and were foundtwo days laterin the boat's life raft, a few miles from the abandoned vessel.

Still missing are the boat's captain, Jake Branam, 27; his wife Kelley Branam, 30; his half-brother, Scott Gamble, 30; and Samuel Kairy, 27, all of Miami Beach. The Coast Guard suspended its search for them late last week.

Federal prosecutors told U.S. Magistrate Judge William Turnoff that investigators found bullet casings on the yacht and that Zarabozo had blow gun darts and knives when he was plucked from the life raft about 55 kilometres from Cuba.

Zarabozo has been charged with lying to the FBI for allegedly saying he was not on the yacht. Archer has been charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution in connection with the robbery of an Arkansas Wal-Mart where he was a manager.

So far, no charges have been laid in connection with the crew's disappearance.

Defence lawyers argued that no evidence has been presented to link the men to a crime, but the judge ruled that they pose a flight risk and are a potential danger to the community.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Tsai said the men were heading for Cuba, a country that doesn't extradite people being sought by the United States, and had with them a "large amount" of clothes and personal belongings.

"Your honour, this is a one-way trip out of the country," Tsai told Turnoff.

Zarabozo was born in Cuba and Archer, who speaks Spanish, once served there as a military police investigator at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

Pirates to blame, Zarabozo told FBI

According to an FBI affidavit, Zarabozo told them pirates boarded the vessel on its way to Bimini and shot the captain and three crew members one by one, forcing him to throw the bodies into the sea.

The affidavit does not quote either man as explaining why the supposed pirates let them go, or why they had their luggage with them on the life raft.

Zarabozo's lawyer said he initially denied being on the "Joe Cool" because he didn't recognize the yacht when investigators showed it to him.

Archer's lawyer maintained his client was not trying to flee because he didn't give a false name when he was arrested, when he chartered the boat or when police stopped him for a traffic violation soon after the Wal-Mart robbery. He also said Archer had left Arkansas before the warrant for his arrest on robbery charges was issued.

An arraignment for the men is scheduled for Oct. 11.

With files from the Associated Press