A mother of three and realtor from Utah and her husband boarded an Emerald Princess Cruise ship to Alaska, but, before the trip ended, Kristy Manzanares was dead, and Kenneth Manzanares stood accused of murdering her.
The alleged domestic murder on the 3,400 passenger, 1,100 crew member ship led to its lockdown and the involvement of the FBI because the slaying occurred in waters off the coast of Alaska.
The death of Kristy, 39, allegedly occurred after an evening “dispute,” authorities say. Federal court documents paint a chilling scene in which a witness stumbled on the murder and allegedly engaged in a tug-of-war struggle with Kenneth Manzanares for his wife’s body as he pulled Kristy toward the balcony. Horrifically, the couple’s children were on the ship, reports The Gephardt Daily. One of the couple’s daughters posted photos on Facebook of the ship and her cruise ID as the journey started.
According to CBS, the cruise ship left Seattle on July 23 for a seven-day round-trip cruise and had left Ketchikan, Alaska on July 25. “The death forced the crew to divert the ship to Juneau,” CBS reported. Some passengers thought the death was a hoax at first because it occurred as a Murder Mystery dinner was happening elsewhere in the ship, according to CBS.
The couple had financial issues in the past, including a 2010 bankruptcy filing. Kenneth Manzanares, sometimes called “Kenny,” worked as a bail bondsman, according to online profiles, and was a manager at Walgreens and an insurance company employee.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Kenneth Manzanares Is Accused of Killing Kristy Because She Wouldn’t Stop Laughing at Him
Federal court documents allege that Kenneth Manzanares was discovered with blood covering his hands and clothing in the couple’s cabin. He’s been charged in a complaint with murder.
According to the complaint and an affidavit filed in federal court in support of a search warrant, which you can read in full below, the FBI received a telephone call on July 25 at about 10:13 p.m. from a company security officer for Holland America Group who “advised that there had been what appeared to be a homicide aboard the cruise ship Emerald Princess.”
On July 25, at about 9:03 p.m., Emerald Princess Security and Medical personnel responded to an incident in a cabin occupied by Kenneth Manzanares and Kristy, who is identified only as K.M. in the affidavit.
The security officer advised that upon arriving at the cabin he “noticed blood on the hands and clothing of the occupant Kenneth Manzanares.” The security officer placed Kenneth in handcuffs and secured him in the adjoining cabin.
Other witnesses had already entered the room. “Upon entering, they observed Kenneth Manzanares had blood on his hands and clothing. One of the witnesses… advised that when he entered the room he observed KM lying on the floor covered in blood.” The witness asked Kenneth Manzanares what had happened to which Kenneth allegedly replied, “She would not stop laughing at me.”
Kristy “was found with a severe head wound in a room in which blood was spread throughout… on multiple surfaces. She was pronounced dead at the scene at approximately 20 minutes later,” reported KTUU.
In a press conference on July 27, authorities said the cruise ship was within the 12 nautical mile U.S. territorial seas of the United States transiting to Juneau when the death occurred. The case is still pending indictment by grand jury and is being investigated, authorities said.
The investigation was led by the FBI with close support from the U.S. Coast Guard.
The husband was arrested on a federal arrest warrant and is currently in custody, authorities said. The FBI said it was notified about 11 p.m. and sent 12 agents down to Juneau to process the crime scene. About 200 interviews of passengers and crew members were conducted.
The Coast Guard generally oversees safety and security on cruise ships that sail in U.S. waters, but the Coast Guard handed off investigative lead to the FBI because of the nature of the accusations.
Reporters asked authorities whether they could elaborate more on motive, and they would not. Authorities said they couldn’t remember the last time they prosecuted a murder on a cruise ship.
2. A Witness Allegedly Stopped the Husband From Dragging His Wife’s Body to the Balcony By Grabbing Her Ankles
The affidavit filed in federal court goes on to allege a grim struggle between Kenneth Manzanares and a witness, who is identified only by initials in the document.
The witness told the FBI that the witness “observed Manzanares grab K.M.’s body and drag her toward the balcony” in the couple’s cabin.
The witness “then grabbed the ankles of K.M.’s body and pulled her back into the cabin.” Shortly thereafter, cruise ship security entered the cabin and restrained Manzanares, the document says.
Later, as Manzanares was being processed during a search by the FBI, he’s accused of spontaneously stating, “My life is over.”
The closest point of land was Forrester Island, Alaska, which was seven miles away, the document said.
Megan Morr, a passenger on the Emerald Princess, told Fox 13 Salt Lake City, “People were running through the hall with blood all over them and trying to get security.” Passengers heard a man and woman arguing on their balcony before the murder, the television station reported.
3. Kristy Manzanares Worked as a Real Estate Agent & Was Remembered as a ‘Beautiful, Bright Light’
On Facebook, Kristy Manzanares wrote that she was a realtor, licensed at Summit Sotheby’s International Realty, and a former realtor at REMAX Associates St. George.
“St. George and the real estate community are deeply saddened at the loss of this beautiful bright light. Kristy Manzanares you are truly loved. Blessings and prayers,” wrote one woman on Facebook.
Another friend wrote, “Please say a special prayer for Kristy Manzanares. She was a smart, kind and beautiful woman who had everything to live for including her young daughters plus a successful real estate career. My heart is breaking for her loved ones!”
Meanwhile, a 2010 bankruptcy filing in the couple’s names said that Kenneth was a retail manager at Walgreen’s. However, his LinkedIn page says he was more recently working as a “licensed sales producer” for an insurance company. The page says he previously worked as a general manager for a company selling folding tables and chairs. He said he had an associate’s degree from Broadview University in Sports and Exercise.
He also has a profile on a Utah Bail Bonds site. It reads, “Kenny has spent the last 12 years living and working in St. George, Utah. Kenny has three daughters and has been married for 13 years. Prior to becoming the manager at Wal-Greens Kenny worked as a counselor in various youth programs. Kenny has been with Bad Boys Bail Bonds Utah since the beginning of 2011.”
Kristy Manzanares was a native of Utah “who made her way to St. George by way of Southern Utah University. She has a Bachelors Degree in Family and Consumer Science with an Emphasis in Interior Design,” her realtor’s bio says.
“Her past experience includes Community Association and Resort Management in which she learned the importance of building relationships and trust through constant communication and top-notch customer service. Her love of touring new homes, interior decor and a desire to provide positive experiences to new home buyers prompted her to obtain her Real Estate License in 2010,” said the bio.
4. Friends Remembered That Kristy Was ‘So Dang Nice’ & a School Volunteer
Tributes to Kristy focused on her kind personality.
“So sad. RIP Kristy. Prayers and thoughts directed to her family. She was always so dang nice,” wrote one man on Facebook. Wrote a local woman, “I met this gal at a Parade home, talked to her for 30 min. She was so nice. It’s heart wrenching when things like this happen.”
Her realtor’s profile focused on her family and volunteerism in schools and as a tree designer.
“Kristy enjoys volunteering at local schools and is involved in the Jubilee of Trees as Tree Designer each year. She loves cheering on her daughters at soccer games, spending time with extended family and is currently learning how to play golf with her husband.”
5. Kristy & Kenneth Were the Parents of Three Children & Were Celebrating an Anniversary
According to Facebook, the couple had three children. Kristy filled her Facebook page with photos of the children. Kristy and Kenneth were traveling with a large group, believed to include their children, for an anniversary celebration.
In one 2015 Facebook post, Kristy wrote with a photo of the three girls, “Today I’m thankful for these 3 girls whom I frequently refer to as my little Beasts. In reality, they are becoming beautiful young women with unique qualities & fun personalities that keep us laughing nonstop. ❤️ them so much!”
A GoFundMe page has been created to raise money to help the three girls. “Kristy was a smart, kind, beautiful woman that had so much to live for. She had three beautiful daughters that she loved more than anything,” the site reads. “Everything she did was for the girls. She wanted so much for them and was only concerned with their happiness. Kristy was always thoughtful and was loved by so many. Her children loved her more than anything, she meant the world to them. She was a hard worker who who made her busy schedule work around the needs of her girls. Kristy’s life was tragically taken July 25, 2017. Kristy died a great distance away and her family needs to get her home. Please help the family with her final expenses and to help her 3 beautiful children.”
One witness described for KTUU the horrific scene inside the cruise ship.
Brian Eckstrom told the television station that “he was with his family when a captain came on the intercom saying security needed to go to a certain floor.”
“I get to floor nine,” he said to KTUU. “I see this little girl sitting on – I assume – her grandma or somebody, sitting on her lap wrapped up in a blanket. And she’s just sobbing. A man came walking out from the hallway where it happened, and he had, like, a white tank top on, and some jeans. His jeans were completely covered in blood and he came out saying, ‘It’s not good, it’s not good.'”
It’s not clear who the little girl and man were in that story, however.
A witness told CBS, “One of the little girls from that room came running out, calling for help, that her parents had been in a fight. She sounded pretty desperate.”
Another witness described hearing screaming and then encountering one of the couple’s hysterical children, who “said she was just really scared. She said, ‘I just want to go and see my mom. I want to see my mom. What’s happening?'”