Micki Kanesaki, 52, disappeared from a cruise and her body was found days later, on May 27, 2006, in the Mediterranean Sea near Italy. An autopsy conducted on her body showed that she had been strangled and killed before her body was thrown overboard, prosecutors said, according to WFTV9.
In February 2013, years later, her ex-husband Lonnie Loren Kocontes, 62, was arrested and charged with her murder with a special circumstance allegation of murder for financial gain. He was also accused of conspiring to murder his third ex-wife so she couldn’t testify against him in the murder of Kanesaki, his second ex-wife.
Kocontes Strangled Kanesaki Before Throwing Her Body Overboard From the Cruise Ship & Her Body Was Found Days Later
Kocontes and Kanesaki flew to Spain on May 21, 2006, where they got on the cruise, according to a press release from the Orange County District Attorney’s office. Kanesaki was last seen on the ship at around 11 p.m. on May 25, 2006, and sometime that night or early the next morning, Kocontes strangled her and threw her body into the Mediterannean. On May 26, 2006, he reported her missing, the press release stated.
On May 27, 2006, Kanesaki’s body was found floating off the coast of Italy. Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said:
The defendant thought he had planned the perfect crime and lured his prey to her death with a Mediterranean cruise. He picked the perfect ship, the perfect state room, and the perfect time to kill his ex-wife. And he almost got away with murder. Except for the fact that he strangled her to death before he threw her body overboard. Because she died before she hit the water her lungs were filled with air, not water. So she floated. And by a miracle, her body was discovered. That miscalculation allowed us to convict him of murder.
It was over 14 years after Kanesaki’s murder that Kocontes was convicted and sentenced. Some of the delays stemmed from authorities figuring out if they could prosecute Kocontes for a murder that occurred in international waters, and they eventually went ahead because he’d planned it in Orange County, the Orange County Register reported.
Kocontes’ Motive Was Financial, Prosecutors Said, to Inherit Over $1 Million
In the press release following his sentencing, the Orange County District Attorney’s office said, “[Kocontes] carried out the murder to inherit more than $1 million as the beneficiary of several bank accounts and the sale of the couple’s home.” As per the press release, Kocontes tried to transfer $1 million into his different bank accounts in 2008, at which point the Federal Bureau began investigating him.
Kocontes, who was a lawyer, and Kanesaki, a paralegal, met at a law firm in Los Angeles and married in 1995. Although their marriage did not last and the two divorced in 2002, they kept living together in Ladera Ranch. In 2002, Kocontes met Amy Nguyen on a dating website and they married in Las Vegas in 2005, WFTV9 reported.
Kocontes and Kanesaki began arguing about selling the Ladera Ranch home and months before he killed Kanesaki, he got new wills done for both of them leaving their assets to each other. According to the outlet, Kocontes then began planning the murder and booked the cruise, where he “specifically asked for a balcony room. It was very important to him,” prosecutors said.
After his ex-wife’s death, Kocontes sold the home and received everything in her accounts. It wasn’t until June 2013 that Nguyen, by then his ex-wife, told an Orange County grand jury that Kocontes had confided in her his plans to kill Kanesaki. Kocontes was later accused of conspiring to murder Nguyen before she could testify, but those charges were dropped after he was convicted of Kanesaki’s murder.