updated 10/23/2007 6:52:16 PM ET 2007-10-23T22:52:16

Two men charged with killing the four crew members of a fishing boat they chartered were denied bail Tuesday, despite defense attorneys’ insistence that no evidence linked their clients to the crime.

Prosecutors have no bodies, no murder weapon, no witnesses and no confession, but they say the circumstantial evidence tells the story.

Attorneys for Kirby Archer and Guillermo Zarabozo said there was no weight to prosecutors’ highlighting of inconsistencies in the defendants’ statements about what exactly happened aboard the 47-foot Joe Cool last month. U.S. Magistrate Judge Ted Banstra, however, said the gravity of the claims made it necessary to keep the suspects behind bars.

Among the items found in Zarabozo’s backpack were knives, a blowgun and darts — “not indicative of luggage you would take on a vacation,” noted Michael Gilfarb, a prosecutor. Bloodstains and a handcuff key were found on the boat.

The defendants also provided conflicting statements on how they met, when they decided to charter a boat and the attire of the pirates they said were responsible for the killings. But their attorneys said it was understandable.

“We’re talking about horrendous, tragic events that happened on this boat,” said Allan Kaiser, an attorney for 35-year-old Archer. “There is no wonder that perceptions might differ.”

Archer and Zarabozo paid $4,000 in cash for the Joe Cool to take them to the Bahamas on Sept. 22. The boat was reported missing the next day, and the two men were later found on its life raft not far from the abandoned and drifting vessel.

Men dispute murder accusations
The two men claim they were attacked at sea by pirates who fatally shot the boat’s captain, wife and two crew members and ordered their bodies thrown in the ocean. These pirates, the men said, spared them and left aboard another vessel after the Joe Cool ran out of fuel en route to Cuba.

Missing and presumed dead are the captain, Jake Branam; his wife, Kelley Branam; and crew members Scott Gamble and Samuel Kairy. The Branams left behind two young children.

In questioning the lead federal investigator on the case, Richard Blais Jr., defense attorneys tried to show that the evidence against their clients is thin.

Blais acknowledged he had no proof that shell casings found on the boat were linked to a Glock 9mm magazine for which detectives found a receipt. The investigator also said he had no proof there was not another boat near the Joe Cool that might corroborate the defendants’ story. And Blais said forensics tests on computers seized in the case and on blood found on the boat have not been completed.

“The government is grabbing at straws,” said Faith Mesnekoff, an attorney for 20-year-old Zarabozo.

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