If you need to grab a map to understand all that, you’re not alone. Here’s a deeper explanation of the lawsuit.
Lonnie Kocontes, 55, used to live in California with his then-wife Micki Kanesaki. The couple filed for divorce in 2001, but the pair continued to live together in an on-again, off-again relationship for some time. The pair decided to share a cabin during a Mediterranean cruise in May of 2006. While on the cruise, Kanesaki went overboard and her body later washed up on an Italian shore.
Italian investigators interrogated Kocontes, but they did not find enough evidence to charge him with a crime. It’s uncertain if the case was deemed an accident or simply went cold, but authorities began another investigation in 2008 after they became aware that Kocontes had began transferring more than $1 million from his ex-wife’s bank account to joint accounts he shared with his new wife.
Kocontes, who at the time was living in Florida, was arrested in February and indicted on charges of murder for financial gain. The indictment claims he strangled his ex-wife, and then tossed her body overboard. He pleaded not guilty to the charge last month, and will attempt to have the case dismissed at a hearing on June 26. Kocontes alleges that the local authorities lack the jurisdiction to bring him to trial.
The charge of murder for financial gain carries some serious consequences. If found guilty, Kocontes could face the death penalty or a minimum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. We’ll keep an eye on Kocontes’ scheduled court appearance on the 26th.
Attorney Sean Sullivan comments
As a defense attorney, I have strong objections to this on jurisdictional and evidentiary grounds.
In this case, the crime was committed in Italy, or more precisely Italian waters. I am not sure the prosecutors in Orange County will be able to sustain their case based on lack of jurisdiction, due to the fact that the crime did not occur in California. It sounds as if the prosecutors are very short on evidence and long on motive.
While killing someone for financial gain is just about the oldest reason there is for killing someone, it does not sound as if prosecutors in this case have proof Kocontes actually killed his ex-wife. Any proof the crime did occur is likely to be found on the cruise ship or in Italy. Simply put, it is unlawful to try this case here in the United States.
Related source: Huffington Post