Orange County News

OC attorney arrested for allegedly strangling ex-wife in Italy

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A former Orange County attorney has been arrested for allegedly strangling his ex-wife while on a cruise in Italy.

Lonnie Loren Kocontes, a 55-year-old former resident of Mission Viejo, was arrested at his home in Florida on Friday. He is facing one felony count of special circumstances murder for financial gain.

The California man worked as an attorney for a law firm in the early 1990s where he met Micki Kanesaki, who worked as a paralegal for the same firm. The couple married in 1995, but filed for divorce six years later. Despite terminating their marital union, the subjects lived together off and on through 2005, court records show.

On May 21, 2006, Kocontes and his ex-wife flew to Spain and boarded a cruise together. The two shared a cabin on the cruise ship, which sailed between Sicily and Naples, according to the FBI.

Kanesaki, 52, was last seen alive on May 26, 2006 around 1 a.m. as she left the cabin to get a cup of tea, said Andy Furlong, a spokesman for Island Cruises.

Her ex-husband reported her missing when he woke up, Furlong said.

Kocontes is accused of murdering Kanesaki by strangling her and throwing her body overboard into the ocean.

Authorities say Kocontes reported his ex-wife missing but returned to California on May 27, 2006. On that same day, Kanesaki's body was discovered floating off the coast of Paola, Italy.

Susan Schroeder, Orange County District Attorney's Office Chief of Staff, said Kocontes has always been their prime suspect.

During the investigation, detectives learned Kocontes attempted to move over $1 million between various bank accounts with his new wife. The FBI, who had investigated the death of Kanesaki, began investigating the money transfers for possible illegal activity.

The suspect is accused of financially benefiting from his ex-wife's murder by being the beneficiary of several of their banks accounts and property. He also received the proceeds from the sale of their home, which was later seized by the United States Attorney's Office.

After additional evidence related to the murder was discovered, the Orange County District Attorney's Office filed murder charges against Kocontes on Wednesday. He was arrested in Safety Harbor, Fla. on Friday and is expected to be extradited to California to face charges.

The case will be handled by the Orange County District Attorney's office because Orange County is where investigators believe the crime was planned.

Kocontes is being held without bail. If convicted, he faces a minimum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole. The suspect is also eligible for the death penalty.

The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with additional information was urged to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Randy Litwin at (714) 347-8492 or OCSD Investigator Don Voght at (714) 647-7051.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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