SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — A judge Monday rejected the argument of defense attorneys that Orange County prosecutors lack jurisdiction in the case of a local man accused of killing his ex-wife on a cruise and throwing her body overboard.
Lonnie Loren Kocontes, a 55-year-old former Orange County attorney who is still licensed to practice law in California, is accused of killing ex-wife Micki Kanesaki while the two were on a cruise in May of 2006.
The body of his 52-year-old ex-wife, with whom he lived off and on for five years following their divorce in 2001, was found off the coast of Paola, Italy May 27.
During questioning in 2006, Kocontes told police his wife was despondent and that she likely jumped overboard. An autopsy revealed the woman had been strangled.
A grand jury indicted Kocontes on murder charges despite a judge’s earlier dismissal of the case on the grounds that it lacked jurisdiction. Prosecutors said Orange County sheriff’s investigators discovered new evidence last year that lead to Kocontes’ arrest. He was extradited from Florida in March.
In May, a judge ruled that Orange County prosecutors did not have jurisdiction to try the case. Deputy District Attorney Susan Price immediately filed a new case — alleging murder with special circumstances of killing for financial gain — against him.
As the beneficiary of several of his ex-wife’s bank accounts and property, prosecutors allege Kocontes benefited financially from his ex-wife’s death.
The District Attorney’s office said federal agents took notice of Kocontes after he attempted to transfer more than $1 million to different bank accounts shared with his new spouse. That money was eventually seized by federal prosecutors in a civil asset forfeiture case.
Kocontes’ arraignment was postponed until Sept. 30 to give defense attorneys time to appeal.
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