Pasco Sheriff's Office/Orange County Sheriff's Department
Lonnie Kocontes, pictured in a booking photo, has been charged with murdering his ex-wife Micki Kanesaki, right.
Nearly seven years after a woman's body was found floating off the coast of Italy, police have arrested her ex-husband, a former Mission Viejo attorney, who is now accused of her murder.
Lonnie Loren Kocontes, 55, is suspected of murdering Micki Kanesaki, then 52, by strangling her to death, throwing her body overboard and reporting her missing, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Both the FBI and Southern California authorties have been investigating the murder since Kanesaki's dead body was found off the coast of Paola, Italy, on May 27, 2006.
Police on Friday arrested Kocontes at his home in Safety Harbor, Fla., where he is being held by a county jail without bail. The Orange County District Attorney’s office filed the charge against him on Wednesday.
"Mr. Kocontes has always been the sole and only suspect in this case," said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff to Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
The couple flew to Spain and boarded a cruise ship on May 21, 2006, according to the sheriff’s department. After an excursion in Messina, Italy, the couple returned to the ship on May 25, the last day Kanesaki was seen alive.
"I wish I knew why," Kocontes reportedly said of his wife's floating body after it was discovered.
He reportedly told investigators his ex-wife was suicidal.
Kocontes is accused of financially benefitting from the murder by attempting to move more than $1 million from several bank accounts and properties into a joint account he held with his new wife, Katherine, in 2008, prosecutors said.
This prompted the FBI to begin a criminal probe and seizure efforts, prosecutors said Saturday.
The FBI investigated Kanesaki’s death and money transfers before the United States Attorney’s Office seized the money from Kocontes’ bank accounts.
In 2012, the OCDA requested additional investigation from the sheriff’s department, which discovered more evidence related to the murder.
Kocontes and Kanesaki married in 1995 but divorced in 2001. They lived together on and off until 2006, according to the sheriff’s department.
"We are seeking extradition, and we are very confident that he will be extradited back to California so that he can answer for the charges that he has gotten away with for so long," Shroeder said.
Kocontes is charged with one felony count of murder for financial gain. If convicted, he faces a minimum sentence of life in prison without parole and is eligible for the death penalty.