Orange County prosecutors said Lonni Loren Kocontes, 62, killed his 52-year-old ex-wife Micki Kanesaki in order to inherit more than $1 million

By Christine Pelisek
June 16, 2020 02:43 PM
Lonni Loren Kocontes; Micki Kanesaki

A former California attorney was convicted Monday of strangling his ex-wife and then tossing her overboard during a Mediterranean cruise.

Orange County prosecutors said Lonni Loren Kocontes, 62, killed his 52-year-old ex-wife, Micki Kanesaki, in order to inherit more than $1 million as the beneficiary of several bank accounts and the sale of their home.

A jury deliberated for less than an hour before convicting Kocontes of one count of first-degree murder with a special circumstances enhancement of murder for financial gain.

According to prosecutors, Kocontes and his wife flew to Spain and boarded the cruise ship on May 21, 2006. Four days later, the couple took a day trip to the town of Messina, Italy, and then returned to the ship. Kanesaki was last seen alive on the ship around 11 p.m.

Prosecutors alleged that Kocontes strangled his wife later that night and then threw her body overboard. He later reported her missing and returned to California on May 27 -- the same day his wife’s body was found floating off the coast of Paola, Italy.

“The defendant thought he committed the perfect crime by throwing the victim overboard from the balcony of a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

“But he made a mistake. Despite all of his painstaking planning to pick the perfect ship, the perfect room and the perfect time to commit a murder, the fact that he strangled her before throwing her overboard gave us the very evidence to convict him of murder. She couldn’t breathe in water because she was dead long before her body ever hit the ocean and when authorities found her, her cause of death was determined to be asphyxiation – not drowning. He chose the ship, he chose the balcony room and now the judge will decide his fate.”

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.

Prosecutors said Kocontes in 2008 tried to transfer $1 million between various bank accounts he shared with his wife. Soon, the FBI started investigating the money transfer and the United States Attorney’s Office eventually took possession of the accounts.

Kocontes was arrested in Safe Harbor, Florida in Feb. 2013.

He faces life without the possibility of parole and is scheduled to be sentenced on September 18.