An Orange County man awaiting trial for allegedly strangling his ex-wife and throwing her from a cruise ship off the Italian coast tried to hire two inmates to kill another ex-wife, according to prosecutors.
Lonnie Loren Kocontes, 57, has been in custody since 2013, when Orange County sheriff’s investigators concluded his ex-wife's death at sea in 2006 was not an accident or suicide but the culmination of a plot that netted him more than $1 million.
The body of Micki Kanesaki was found floating in Italian waters two days after she was reported missing. By then, Kocontes had already returned to the United States and was with another woman whom he later married, Orange County prosecutors said.
Authorities investigated Kanesaki’s death in 2006, and his new wife testified before an Orange County grand jury, prosecutors said. But her story apparently changed when she testified for investigators again in 2013. Soon after, Kocontes was arrested.
Kocontes allegedly drafted a letter in which his wife stated that her 2006 testimony was accurate and that she was forced to lie in 2013.
Prosecutors say Kocontes hired two inmates to get the letter to his ex-wife, have her sign it, then kill her.
One of the two inmates told the inmates' lawyer, who notified the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. It led to the new charges.
On top of the murder for financial gain charge Kocontes already faces from Kanesaki’s death, he now faces two counts of solicitation to commit murder and one count of solicitation to bribe a witness.
He is due in court Thursday afternoon in Orange County and faces life in prison without parole from his prior charges.
Kocontes had met Kanesaki when they worked at the same Los Angeles-based law firm in the 1990s. They married in 1995 and divorced in 2001 but reconnected before their European getaway in 2006.
The couple boarded a cruise ship in Messina, Italy, on May 25. Kanesaki disappeared sometime after 11 that night; her body was found two days later.
At the time, Kocontes told authorities his wife had left about 1 a.m. to get a cup of tea and he’d taken a sleeping pill. When he awoke, she was gone.
Kocontes was the beneficiary on Kanesaki’s estate and gained more than $1 million from the sale of her home and bank accounts, prosecutors allege.
In 2008, Kocontes tried to move that money among his bank accounts with his fourth wife, triggering an FBI investigation.
The probe eventually led to the murder charge against Kocontes. He was arrested in Florida in February 2013.
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