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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Kirby Archer sentenced in Joe Cool killings

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Kirby Archer, formerly of Strawberry, Ark., was sentenced Oct. 14 to five consecutive life terms in prison for the murder of four innocent people.

Jake Branam and his wife Kelley, Scott Gamble, Branam's half-brother and Samuel Kairy, were the victims whose lives Kirby Archer admitted to taking during this tragic event.

"For the family, I wish that, um, I wish I could take back what happened," Archer said in court. "I wish I could show a little more emotion, but I'm not built that way."

Newspaper reports say, that family members of the victims sobbed during the proceeding. "Our hell is on earth, and it began with you," Branam's half-sister Amy Gamble cried.

"There's nothing I can say to fix it or take it back," Archer said. "I deserve to sit in jail the rest of my life -- I deserve the death penalty -- no question about that."

Archer, 36, was on the run from authorities after stealing $92,000 in January 2007 from the Batesville Wal-Mart where he was employed as a night manager. The next time anyone heard from Archer was in September 2007 when he and Guillermo Zarabozo were picked up by the Coast Guard just outside of Cuban waters.

Archer had fled to Miami, Fla., and befriended Zarabozo. On Sept. 22, 2007, Archer and Zarabozo chartered a fishing boat known as the Joe Cool for a trip to Bimini, paying $4,000 in cash. The two men claimed to have high security jobs for the government lined up.

The Joe Cool was found drifting at sea, empty. Archer and Zarabozo were recovered the next day just outside of Cuban waters, in a life raft. The two men told a story of Cuban pirates hijacking the boat and killing all aboard except them.

Later, Archer confessed to the murder of the four victims. Police never recovered the victims' bodies or the murder weapon used.

During Zarabozo's trial he told the court Archer had ordered him to hurl the bodies into the ocean. Zarabozo then told the court one of the victims was still alive when he dumped the bodies.

Archer pled guilty to the murders in July, to avoid the death penalty, so his life sentences came as no surprise. Zarabozo is currently awaiting a retrial set for January.

Zarabozo's defense team painted him as a victim during the trial, saying Archer deceived Zarabozo. The defense team said Zarabozo was young and naive and Archer convinced him he was going to Bimini to obtain a high security job that paid $500 per day.

Zarabozo was convicted on only four counts of providing the gun used to kill the four people. The jurors deadlocked on the other 12 counts including kidnapping and murder.

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