MICKI KANESAKI thought she was taking a dream cruise that would rekindle her romance with her ex-husband.
Instead, authorities say Micki’s ex Lonnie Kocontes strangled her and threw her body overboard off the coast of Italy.
“He thought the sea would swallow her up and he’d get away with the perfect murder,” a law enforcement source told The ENQUIRER.
But 52-year-old Micki’s body was found floating in the sea two days later. Now Kocontes, 55, is behind bars and facing a potential death sentence.
The couple met while Kocontes was practicing law with a Los Angeles firm where Micki worked as a paralegal. They married in 1995, and divorced in 2001, although they continued to live together off and on in their Mission Viejo, Calif., home.
IN 2006, Kocontes – who’d served time on drug charges – persuaded Micki to join him on a Mediterranean cruise. She agreed, hoping to patch up their differences. But authorities say Kocontes was plotting to kill her to get her money.
On May 23, they flew to Spain and boarded the cruise ship Island Escape. Two nights later Micki disappeared while the ship was sailing between Sicily and Naples.
Kocontes told authorities that they’d had dinner, and then visited the ship’s casino and took in a comedy show before returning to their cabin. He said they shared a glass of wine and around 1 a.m., he took a sleeping pill. He told authorities that he last saw Micki when she left to get a cup of tea.
When the ship made an unscheduled stop in Naples, Kocontes flew back to America, and hinted Micki may have taken her own life. “I can’t rule suicide out,” he said. “She talked about wanting to kill herself in the past.”
But Micki’s heartbroken mother, Setsuko Kanesaki, insisted: “There’s no reason to believe it was suicide. She was in good spirits before she left.”
Two days after Micki disappeared, the Italian coast guard found her body floating off the Italian coast. An autopsy showed she’d been strangled.
The FBI began investigating in 2008 when Kocontes tried to transfer $1.2 million from bank accounts that were still in Micki’s name to his own bank, authorities said.
But it wasn’t until Feb. 15 this year that Kocontes was arrested in Safety Harbor, Fla., where he was living with his new wife.
He was charged with murdering Micki for financial gain, a charge that carries the death penalty in California.
“Mr. Kocontes has always been the sole and only suspect in this case,” said Susan Schroeder, chief of staff in the Orange County District Attorney’s office.
“We are confident that he will be extradited to California so that he can answer to the charge that he has gotten away with for so long.”