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Crime & Courts

Safety Harbor man charged in death of ex-wife on cruise


Published:   |   Updated: May 30, 2013 at 03:04 PM

SANTA ANA, Calif. A judge says Orange County authorities can prosecute a man charged with strangling his ex-wife and tossing her off a cruise ship in Italy.

The Orange County Register reports a Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that California authorities have an interest in the case because the woman lived here.

Lonnie Kocontes, 55, of Safety Harbor, Fla., was arrested in February. He has pleaded not guilty to killing his ex-wife for financial gain.

Kocontes and Micki Kanesaki were divorced but lived together on and off in Mission Viejo and were on a cruise in 2006 when she went overboard in the Mediterranean Sea.

Her body washed ashore the next day.

Authorities say an investigation began in 2008 when Kocontes began transferring more than $1 million from Kanesaki's bank accounts.

The Register reported that in the early 1990s, Kocontes was working as an attorney for a law firm and met Kanesaki, who was a paralegal at the same firm, prosecutors said.

The couple married in 1995 and divorced in 2001, but lived together off and on through 2006.

Prosecutors say the pair boarded a cruise in Spain on May 21, 2006, and Kanesaki was last seen alive on the ship May 25 around 11 p.m. after she and Kocontes spent the day touring Messina, Italy.

Kocontes reported her missing before returning to California on May 27; the same day Kanesaki's body was found off the coast of Paola, Italy, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors say Kocontes strangled Kanesaki and threw her body overboard either late May 25 or early May 26.

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