Texas Officials Dig Up Boat That May Solve Eight Year Old Cold Case

PHOTO Travis Marburger, 36, shown in this bookin photo, was arrested and charged with Manslaughter, Dec. 7, 2010. Marburger?s 10 acres will be the focus of an excavation.Play
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Jim Daniels and high school friend Justin Roberts shared a love of the outdoors, spending hours fishing and hunting together. But a fishing trip gone wrong in May 2002 left Roberts dead and Daniels looking for answers.

"I remember leaving our fishing spot, and the next thing I remember was I woke up and I was floating in the water," Daniels said. "I floated unconscious in the water for nine and a half hours."

Daniels, Roberts and Roberts' girlfriend were wearing their life jackets and heading for home in the early hours of May 3, 2002, after an unsuccessful night of fishing for bass on Lake Buchanan in central Texas.

"It was a real cut-and-dry fishing trip that we'd made several times," Daniels said.

But this fishing trip didn't end like all the others before it. A speedboat plowed over Roberts' boat. Roberts, a high school football star, didn't survive the collision.

The boat's driver never stopped.

For more than eight years, the driver behind the wheel of that speed boat has remained a mystery, but on Tuesday, Texas officials said they had a break.

Officials arrested and charged Travis Marburger, 36, with manslaughter. Marburger could face two to 20 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. He is currently being held in the Burnet County jail.

"We got a tip on Nov. 22 from someone who provided information that turned up the temperature on this old investigation again," said Mike Cox, spokesman for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

At 10 this morning, members of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Burnet County Police started digging at Marburger's farm in Bertram for the boat that could finally close the case.

Shortly before noon, investigators found what they were looking for: a blue, 16 foot, Checkmate Power Boat.

"We're very optimistic that we found the boat," Cox said. "It looks like it may be in several pieces, but large portions are still intact."

The team is still excavating the boat, and it will likely take several more hours, Cox said.

"This has been a real thorn in the side of our game wardens. It was almost personal for them," Cox told ABC affiliate KVUE.

Cox couldn't remember another instance in the state where unearthing a boat helped solve a crime.

"I haven't found anyone yet in Texas who recalls the excavation of a boat. Bodies have been dug up, cars have been dug up and even guns, but I haven't heard anyone talk about a boat being dug up," Cox said.

Families and Friends React to Cold Case Break

Daniels and Roberts' family learned about the new evidence Tuesday morning.

"It's a lot of relief," Daniels said. "There was a sense of shock, a sense of just definitely an answered prayer."

David Roberts, Justin's father, told KVUE-TV that it had been "a long time coming and that it was a lot to take in."

Daniels still thinks often of his old childhood friend, and said that the accident would always be with him.

"I don't believe you ever get over it. It's like a book in your life and over time you find a way to take that book and put it on the shelf and sometimes that book falls off the shelf," he said.

Daniels has perhaps carried the accident into his work. He now lives in Texas' Knox County, working as a game warden for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, helping people stay safe in the water and outdoors.