Former Lawyer Gets Life in Prison for Strangling Ex-Wife on Cruise Ship, Throwing Her Overboard

A former California attorney who strangled his ex-wife and then tossed her overboard during a Mediterranean cruise was sentenced Friday to life without the possibility of parole.

Lonnie Loren Kocontes, 62, was convicted in June of first-degree murder with a special circumstance allegation of murder for financial gain in the death of his 52-year-old ex-wife Micki Kanesaki.

Orange County prosecutors said Kocontes killed Kanesaki in order to inherit more than $1 million as the beneficiary of several bank accounts and the sale of a home she didn’t want to sell.

“He is calculated, he is incredibly smart, he lacks empathy and compassion and is willing to take tremendous risks to harm others,” Assistant District Attorney Susan Price said, the Orange County Register reports. “He killed her because she was standing in his way of getting what he wanted. He planned, he schemed, he eliminated that obstacle.”

According to prosecutors, Kocontes specifically chose a budget cruise ship that had balcony windows where he could push her out into the sea without anyone noticing, the Register reports.

Prosecutors said Kocontes "specifically asked for a balcony room. It was very important to him,'' NBC4 reports.

Kocontes and Kanesaki flew to Spain and boarded the cruise ship on May 21, 2006. Four days later, the couple took a day trip to the town of Messina, Italy, and then returned to the ship. Kanesaki was last seen alive on the ship around 11 p.m.

Prosecutors alleged that Kocontes strangled his wife later that night and then threw her body overboard.

Kocontes claimed he woke up around 4:30 a.m. and found her missing. He notified authorities and told them she may have fallen overboard after getting sick from wine, NBC4 reports.

Kocontes returned to California on May 27 — the same day his wife’s body was found floating off the coast of Paola, Italy.

During the trial, Kocontes’ fourth wife Amy Nguyen testified that Kocontes told her he wanted to have Kanesaki killed during the cruise. She didn’t alert the authorities because “I didn’t think it was serious. I told him, no, don’t do it,” according to the Register.

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Prosecutors said Kocontes in 2008 tried to transfer $1 million between various bank accounts he shared with Kanesaki. Soon, the FBI started investigating the money transfers and the United States Attorney’s Office eventually took possession of the accounts.

Kocontes was arrested in Safe Harbor, Florida, in Feb. 2013.

“You are a vicious, cruel, evil person,” Micki’s brother Toshi Kanesaki said to Kocontes during sentencing, the Orange County Register reports. “You are rotten to the core.”

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