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OC Judge Dismisses Murder Charge Against Man Accused Of Strangling Wife On Cruise Ship

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Lonnie Kocontes booking photo. (credit: U.S. Marshals)

Lonnie Kocontes booking photo. (credit: U.S. Marshals)

SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — A Superior Court judge Friday said Orange County didn’t have jurisdiction to bring a murder charge against a man accused of killing his wife at sea and dismissed the case against the suspect.

But Orange County prosecutors immediately filed a new case against Lonnie Loren Kocontes to keep him behind bars.

The DA said Kocontes, a former Orange County attorney, strangled his ex-wife and threw her overboard while on a cruise in Italy.

Following three days of hearings, Kocontes’ attorneys argued that Orange County prosecutors lacked jurisdiction, Superior Court Judge William Evans agreed and dismissed the case.

Evans ordered Kocontes freed, but Deputy District Attorney Susan Price immediately filed a new case — alleging murder with special circumstances of killing for financial gain — against him.

Kocontes, 55, now resides in Safety Harbor, Florida. He is scheduled to be arraigned June 17 on the new charge.

He is accused of strangling ex-wife Micki Kanesaki on a cruise ship and tossing her body overboard in May 2006. Kanesaki went on the cruise thinking the couple might reconcile, according to her family. Kocontes reported her missing, according to prosecutors, and told authorities she jumped overboard because she was depressed.

The couple flew to Spain on May 21, 2006, to board a cruise. They got off the ship to tour Messina, Italy, on May 25, 2006, returning at the end of the day. Kanesaki was last seen alive at 11 that night.

Kocontes returned to California the morning of May 27, 2006. Kanesaki’s body was found off the coast of Paola, Italy, that same day. The coroner said she had been strangled.

Prosecutors allege Kocontes benefited from the murder because he was the beneficiary of Kanesaki’s bank accounts and property such as their home, which he sold.

Kocontes came to the attention of federal investigators in 2008 when he was tried to transfer more than $1 million between various bank accounts with a new wife, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Federal prosecutors seized the money in a civil asset forfeiture case.

Orange County prosecutors began discussing the alleged murder in 2010 with federal prosecutors. New evidence was uncovered by Orange County sheriff’s investigators last year, leading to Kocontes’ arrest, prosecutors said.

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