SANTA ANA, Calif. — A California grand jury has indicted a Florida man on charges he strangled his ex-wife and tossed her off a cruise ship in Italy.
Lonnie Kocontes, 55, who used to live in Southern California, was indicted by an Orange County grand jury on Friday and did not enter a plea during his Superior Court arraignment Monday, the Orange County Register reported.
Kocontes remained jailed today. He is charged with murder for financial gain, which carries a potential death penalty and a minimum sentence of life in prison without chance of parole.
Kocontes will try to have the case dismissed at a June 26 hearing, arguing that local authorities lack jurisdiction to prosecute.
He and Micki Kanesaki, 52, divorced in 2001 after six years of marriage but continued to live together, off and on, in southern Orange County. They were sharing a cabin during a May 2006 Mediterranean cruise when she went overboard. Her body later washed ashore.
Italian police investigated but did not arrest Kocontes.
Another investigation began in 2008 after Kocontes began transferring more than $1 million from Kanesaki’s bank accounts into joint accounts he held with his new wife, authorities said.
He was arrested in February and pleaded not guilty to murder in May, but the case was dismissed. Prosecutors then moved to refile the charges, and another judge ruled that they could proceed. Last week, prosecutors presented evidence before the grand jury and obtained an indictment.