Lonnie Kocontes, age 55, was arrested last week on a murder warrant in the death of his ex-wife, Micki Kanesaki, who went overboard from an Italian cruise ship seven years ago.
Kocontes, a lawyer licensed in California, was arrested in Florida where he was living. He was booked into into the Pasco County Jail where he is being held without bail.
He is charged with one count of “special circumstances murder for financial gain.”
Kocontes met Kanesaki in the early 1990s at a Los Angeles law firm where he worked as an attorney and she worked as an administrative assistant. They later married in 1995.
Kocontes was reportedly fired from his job after he was arrested in 2000 for charges of sexual contact with a minor that were later dismissed. In 2001, they divorced to protect their assets from civil litigation. They continued to live together, but their relationship deteriorated.
In May 2006, the couple vacationed in Italy and sailed aboard the Island Escape cruise ship. On May 26, 2006, the cruise ship was sailing between Sicily and Naples, when Kanesaki went overboard. Her body washed ashore the next day in Calabria in southwest Italy. An autopsy was performed. An Italian medical doctor concluded that she had been strangled before she went overboard.
Kocontes claims that Kanesaki left the cabin around 1 a.m. to get a cup of tea. Kocontes reported her missing after he woke up and couldn’t find her. Italian police boarded the ship, seized records and videotapes and took statements from the crew.
Prosecutors say that Kocontes strangled Kaneski to death on board the ship and then threw her overboard.
Kocontes later began transferring more than $1 million from Kaneski’s bank accounts into joint accounts he held with his new wife. That prompted the FBI to begin seizure efforts which were dismissed by a federal judge in California.
The Orange County Register covered the story back in 2006, and quoted Kanesaki’s mother saying that her daughter was in good spirits before the cruise. ‘‘I can’t imagine what happened to her. There’s no reason to believe it was a suicide.’’
A newspaper in Italy published an article “The Perfect Murder.”
The case reminds me of the murder of Karen Roston by her husband Mark Roston aboard Admiral Cruises’ Sundancer some 20 years ago.
June 15, 2020 Update: Today a jury in California convicted Kocontes of strangling his ex-wife and throwing her off the cruise ship, according to the O.C. Register newspaper. “Prosecutors told jurors during closing arguments last week that Kocontes chose the couple’s room on the budget cruise ship, complete with balcony, because it allowed him to drop an object into the sea without hitting any part of the ship.”
Photo Credit: VIP.it (top); O.C. Register (bottom).