Crime

Slain Miami-Dade burglar was once an informant in notorious Joe Cool case

Antwan Hall
Antwan Hall Miami-Dade Corrections

Antwan Hall once played a small role in the chilling story of the Joe Cool. The Miami charter boat was hijacked by two men, who murdered its four crew members and hurled their bodies into the sea, never to be found again.

One of the killers, while behind bars awaiting trial, reportedly confessed to Hall. Briefly anyway, Hall became a key government witness in the high-profile case.

Now, Hall has become part of another slaying case — his own. He was recently shot to death by a homeowner after detectives say he and another man broke into a Southwest Miami-Dade house. His cohort, Garfield Jackson, 25, is expected to be formally charged next week in connection with the botched burglary.

The Joe Cool case in September 2007 ranks among Miami’s most disturbing crime tales.

Prosecutors alleged that Guillermo Zarabozo, a Hialeah security guard, and Kirby Archer, a fugitive from Arkansas, chartered the boat, supposedly for a trip to Bimini. While at sea, the pair decided to hijack the boat with plans of heading to Cuba.

The pair shot and killed captain Jake Branam, 27; his wife, Kelley Branam, 30; Branam’s half-brother, Scott Gamble, 35; and first mate Samuel Kairy, 27, all of Miami Beach. A lengthy search failed to find any trace of the victims. The Branams left behind a 2-year-old daughter and an infant son.

The U.S. Coast Guard later found Archer and Zarabozo on the boat’s life raft. They told an incredible tale about being hijacked by “Cuban pirates.”

With no confessions or bodies, Archer and Zarabozo were arrested based on circumstantial evidence. Enter Hall, who in late 2007 was serving a 30-month sentence for illegal possession of a firearm.

Hall and Zarabozo were housed together at Miami’s Federal Detention Center. Hall told federal prosecutors that Zarabozo claimed that Archer was the one who shot and killed the crew members — using Zarabozo’s pistol.

Zarabozo’s defense lawyers fought the government’s plan to use Hall as a witness, saying he was a jailhouse snitch concocting tales to reduce his sentence. Ultimately, prosecutors declined to use Hall as a witness at trial.

Archer pleaded guilty and is doing life in prison. In Zarabozo’s first trial, jurors deadlocked; in a second trial in February 2009, the jury convicted the Hialeah High graduate. He, too, is doing life behind bars.

Hall, who also testified in an unrelated attempted murder case, got 10 months shaved off his sentence.

But he could not stay out of trouble. In state court, Hall was charged with burglary — and wound up getting another 18 months in federal prison for violating his probation. He left federal prison in December 2012. Eight months later, Hall was arrested in another burglary in Hialeah, but prosecutors declined to file charges.

His final break-in, according to police, cost Hall his life.

According to Miami-Dade police, Hall and Jackson — believing the home was empty — used a screwdriver to break into the house on the 27000 block of Southwest 189th Avenue on May 18. The two “began ransacking the residence.”

Hearing noises, homeowner Robert Dayton grabbed a gun and, in the confrontation, shot both men. Hall, 32, died immediately. Jackson was wounded, hospitalized and later confessed to police, according to an arrest report by Miami-Dade Detective Jonathan Grossman.

In Florida, homeowners have wide latitude to use deadly force against intruders, even unarmed ones, who enter their home unlawfully. Dayton will not be charged.

Miami-Dade police arrested Jackson on second-degree felony murder charges for participating in the burglary that led to Hall’s death. His arraignment is Wednesday before Circuit Judge Yvonne Coldny.

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