Man Accused of his Ex-Wife’s Cruise Ship Murder Formally Indicted

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

HandcuffsSeveral cruise ship disappearances have been reported throughout the years, but rarely are these cases solved. There have been cases involving the disappearance of both cruise passengers and crew members, both from onboard the vessel as well as in port. The majority of onboard disappearance victims are presumed to be lost overboard, sometime their bodies have been found by Coast Guard emergency crews, but others have never recovered. Then there are the few exceptional cases in which the victim who went overboard is rescued and survives. However,  the sad truth is that most cruise ship disappearances remain unresolved.

Whether it’s because the victims did not survive and there body was not found or because the disappearance was the result of a crime that was never solved, the families of these disappearance victims rarely achieve closure or receive compensation for their pain and suffering.

However, this appears to not be the case for one victim’s family who may soon have the long-awaited justice they deserve. A California grand jury has formally indicted a Florida man who is suspected of murdering his ex-wife on a cruise ship in 2006 and then throwing her body overboard.

The case has been tethering back and forth for many years, but authorities have finally been able to piece together the necessary evidence to indict Lonnie Kocontes for the murder of Micki Kanesaki.

Kocontes, 55, a former Southern California resident, was indicted by an Orange County grand jury on Friday but did not enter a plea during his arraignment on Monday.  Back in May, he pleaded not guilty to the cruise ship murder charges but prosecutors have not giving up. The suspect is currently in jail awaiting a hearing on the 26th where he will argue his case and attempt to have the charges dropped once more.

There are several inconsistencies with the story Kocontes gave regarding his ex-wife’s death seven years ago. The couple had divorced in 2001 after being married for six years, but continued to live together and see each other on and off. They decided to go on a Mediterranean cruise in May 2006, but what happened on that cruise is still a mystery.

The pair was sharing a cabin when Kanesaki went overboard. Kocontes claims Kanesaki left the cabin to go get some tea and he fell asleep right after, only to awake early in the morning to notice Kanesaki was not in the room. He reported the matter to cruise officials and an investigation began. Shortly thereafter, Kanesaki’s body washed ashore in Italy, where the vessel had docked, but by this time, Kocontes was on his way home to California.

Kocontes wasn’t initially arrested but in 2008, prosecutors began looking into the case once again after he began transferring over $1 million from bank accounts belonging to his deceased ex-wife to accounts he held with his new wife.

He was then arrested in February, pleaded not guilty in May, and his case was dismissed. Prosecutors then moved to have the charges refiled and the latest indictment was obtained.

Whether Kocontes did kill his ex-wife or not is a question that has yet to be answered in a Court of Law. Prosecutors believe Kocontes had a financial motive to kill Kanesaki, and have provided evidence showing that before going overboard, Kanesaki was strangled to death.

Kocontes’ story has also been inconsistent. At first, he said his ex-wife had taken a sleeping pill before leaving to get her tea, but after the autopsy did not find any trace of sleeping medications in her system, Kocontes said he did not actually see her take the pill and wasn’t sure if she had or not.

It’s also strange that Kocontes left back to California so quickly after his ex-wife was reported missing and did not even wait for authorities to find her body. Did he leave Italy because he was guilty of the cruise ship murder? Or did he just give up hope that Kanesaki was still alive?

These are questions that will hopefully be answered in court so Kanesaki’s loved ones can finally have answers and closure for her death.