A man will spend the rest of his life behind bars for murdering his ex-wife on a cruise nearly 15 years ago, a crime that prosecutors said he almost got away with, the Associated Press reports.
Lonnie Loren Kocontes, 62, was sentenced on Friday to life without the possibility of parole in connection with the 2006 killing of his former wife, Micki Kanesaki.
A jury in June convicted Kocontes with first-degree murder with an enhancement for special circumstances because he was accused of committing the crime for financial gain.
Authorities alleged that Kocontes strangled his ex-wife to death and then threw her body off of a cruise ship in the Mediterranean so he could inherit upwards of $1 million from their bank accounts and the sale of a home.
Kocontes most recently was living in Safety Harbor, Florida, but had previously lived and worked in Irvine, California, KCBS-TV reports.
In a written statement issued after Friday’s sentencing decision, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said Kocontes “almost got away with murder.”
“Except for the fact that he strangled her to death before he threw her body overboard. Because she died before she hit the water her lungs were filled with air, not water. So she floated. And by a miracle, her body was discovered. That miscalculation allowed us to convict him of murder,” Spitzer said in the statement.
Kocontes’ relationship with Kanesaki was turbulent. The couple had been divorced, remarried and then were divorced again when Kocontes booked the cruise. At trial, Kocontes testified that he and Kanesaki, 52, intended to remarry.
However, prosecutors contended that Kocontes actually intended to kill Kanesaki and staged the death so it appeared accidental.
Kanesaki was last seen alive on May 25, 2006 as the ship cruised between Spain and Italy.
During the trial, Kocontes claimed he had ingested a sleeping pill and awoke to Kanesaki gone. He reported her missing and then returned to the United States.
Kanesaki’s body was discovered May 27 floating near Paola, Italy.
Authorities launched an investigation in 2008 after Kocontes attempted to transfer $1 million between bank accounts. He was indicted for murder in 2013 and has been in jail since.
During Friday’s sentencing hearing, Kanesaki’s brother, Toshi Kanesaki, called Kocontes “a cold-blooded killer, a sociopath,” according to KCBS-TV.
“You are rotten to the core. I never want to see you again,” Toshi Kanesaki told Kocontes, the television station reports.
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