Lonnie Kocontes, 55, was arraigned in Orange County Superior Court, charged with murder for financial gain. Prosecutors alleged that Kocontes strangled his ex-wife Micki Kanesaki, 52, and tossed her body overboard in the scheme that netted him more than $1 million. The morning of May 26, 2006, Kocontes reported that Kanesaki was missing to ship authorities. Her body was found a day later in the sea off the Italian coast.
Italian authorities investigated the case at the time and found no reason to hold Kocontes. He said the two had been in bed aboard the ship when Kanesaki left around 1 a.m. to get a cup of tea. He took a sleeping pill and discovered her missing when he awoke. In 2008, the FBI began investigating various money transfers between banks made by Kocontes, who was the beneficiary of several of Kanesaki's bank accounts. The U.S. Attorney's Office eventually seized the money through a court order and brought the case to the attention of the Orange County district attorney.
Orange County sheriff's investigators found additional evidence related to Kanesaki's death. Kocontes was arrested February in Florida and was extradited to California for trial. "The crime commenced in California and culminated" on the ship, said Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Susan Price. "Researching the cruise in California, buying the ticket in California, having them sent to you in California, driving to the airport. Those represent intent and are preparatory acts" that give prosecutors jurisdiction in the case. If convicted of murder, Kocontes faces minimum life sentence without possibility of parole. He also faces the death penalty.
If you, or someone you know has been charged with murder, attempted murder, or any other type of crime, it is essential to contact an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who can aggressively defend your case.