55-year-old Kocontes is accused of strangling his ex-wife and throwing her body overboard while on a Mediterranean cruise. Kocontes' lawyers have said they will appeal the decision, according to the Associated Press. (June 19, 2013; 8:55 a.m. EDT) -- A California grand jury in Orange County has indicted former Orange County attorney Lonnie Kocontes on charges he strangled his ex-wife seven years ago and threw her body from a cruise ship sailing off the coast of Italy.
Kocontes, who currently resides in Florida, did not file a plea during indictment proceedings. According to the Orange County Register, he will remain in custody in California while awaiting a hearing on June 26 at which he will attempt to have the case dismissed on the grounds that California authorities do not have jurisdiction to prosecute the case.
On May 31, following an initial trial for a charge of murder, a California Superior Court dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds. Orange County prosecutors immediately refiled charges of murder with special circumstances of killing for financial gain, and another California judge ruled the trial could proceed. (February 18, 2013; 7:30 a.m. EST) -- A man who is accused of strangling his ex-wife and throwing her body overboard from cruise ship Island Escape has been arrested nearly seven years after the alleged incident took place.
According to the Associated Press, Lonnie Kocontes was arrested in Pinellas County, Florida, on Friday (Feb. 15), and charged with one count of "special circumstances murder for financial gain."
Kocontes' ex-wife, Micki Kanesaki, was last seen alive at 11 p.m. on May 25, 2006, onboard Island Escape. Kocontes reported her missing to ship staff the following morning and eventually flew back to California, where the divorced couple had shared a home.
Kanesaki's body was recovered from the Mediterranean the day after her disappearance (May 27) near Messina, Italy. An Italian autopsy concluded Kanesaki had likely been strangled to death.
Although Kocontes denied any involvement in Kanesaki's disappearance and death, according to Southern California's City News Service, a criminal probe into Kocontes' finances began in 2008. The investigation was reportedly begun after Kocontes attempted to transfer more than $1 million from Kanesaki's bank accounts into joint accounts in Florida that he held with his new wife. Subsequently, both federal and state prosecutors began reviewing the circumstances surrounding Kanesaki's death in 2010. Ultimately, the murder charge against Kocontes was filed February 13, 2013, in Orange County, California.
Kocontes is being held without bail in Florida, where he currently resides. He is likely to be extradited and tried in southern California, where he would face a minimum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole and would be eligible for the death penalty if convicted, according to the AP.
At the time of Kanesaki's death, Island Cruises, a British cruise line partly owned by Royal Caribbean, owned Island Escape. In 2008, Royal Caribbean sold its share of the line to TUI Travel, PLC -- the parent company of Thomson Cruises, who now manage the ship. Cruise Critic has contacted Thomson Cruises for a statement.
--by Jamey Bergman, U.K. Production Editor