Lawyer Who “Almost Got Away With Murder” Sentenced For Ex-Wife’s Cruise Ship Death

Prosecutors say Lonnie Loren Kocontes was “willing to take tremendous risks” to kill Micki Kanesaki.

September 23, 2020

Lonnie Kocontes listening to opening statements at his trial in Santa Ana, CA in February, 2020 [Photo: Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images]

Lonnie Kocontes listening to opening statements at his trial in Santa Ana, CA in February, 2020 [Photo: Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

A former California attorney convicted in June of murdering his ex-wife during a 2006 Mediterranean cruise and tossing her body overboard off the coast of Italy has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

According to Orange County prosecutors, Lonnie Loren Kocontes, 62, strangled 52-year-old Micki Kanesaki aboard the ship Island Escape in a plot to inherit $1 million from her bank accounts and sale of their Ladera Ranch home.

At sentencing on Sept. 18, the victim’s brother, Toshi Kanesaki, called Kocontes “a vicious criminal, evil person, a cold-blooded killer, a sociopath.”

Assistant District Attorney Susan Price contended Kocontes’ motive for committing the crime was that Kanesaki “was standing in his way of getting what he wanted” so “he planned, he schemed, he eliminated that obstacle,” The Orange County Register reported.

“He is calculated, he is incredibly smart, he lacks empathy and compassion and is willing to take tremendous risks to harm others,” Price said.

Kocontes was accused during trial of rewriting Kanesaki’s will before their trip fourteen years ago in order to become the beneficiary of her assets after her death, which he planned to make look like an accident.

In spring 2006, Kocontes claimed he and his ex-wife were in the process of reconciling their relationship and embarked on the cruise together, The OCR reported.

A photo souvenir from the cruise Lonnie Kocontes and his ex-wife Micki Kanesaki took in 2006 which was presented by Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Susan Price during opening statements in Kocontes' trial, February 6, 2020. [Photo: Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images]

A photo souvenir from the cruise Lonnie Kocontes and his ex-wife Micki Kanesaki took in 2006 which was presented by Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Susan Price during opening statements in Kocontes' trial, February 6, 2020. [Photo: Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images]

On May 25 of that year, the Island Escape was in waters off Southern Italy. Kocontes said his wife became sick from wine that evening and he took an Ambien and went to sleep. He alleged he only noticed Kanesaki was gone when he woke up around 4:30 a.m. and thought she may have gone overboard.

Crew on a research ship found Kanesaki’s body on May 27, the same day Kocontes flew back to the United States. He has always denied he had anything to do with the killing.

Dr. Pietrantonio Ricci testified at trial he “absolutely” believed Kanesaki was murdered since an autopsy showed she suffered “a violent action that was continued on for a period of time.”

The Italian pathologist also observed the victim suffered a skull fracture, possibly from a bottle, and there was no water in Kanesaki’s lungs, which prosecutors argued proved she likely died before ending up in the Mediterranean Sea.

In February 2013, almost seven years following Kanesaki’s death, Kocontes was arrested in Florida after his now-fourth-ex-wife, Amy Nguyen, reportedly confessed she had lied to a federal grand jury concerning statements Kocontes made to her about planning the murder.

Despite Nguyen’s admission, the case took until this year to come to trial due to questions over whether or not the Orange County District Attorney’s Office could try a case in California for a death that occurred in international waters.

The now-convicted murderer “almost got away with the perfect crime,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said, according to Los Angeles’ KNBC.

“Had they not found her body, we would never know she was strangled and was dead before she ever hit the water,” D.A. Price noted at trial.

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