NBC’s ‘Dateline: Open Water’ examines the May 2006 murder of 52-year-old Micki Kanesaki, a Californian woman who was strangled to death and then thrown overboard from a cruise ship sailing around the Mediterranean Sea. As the years passed by and the investigations into the matter proceeded, it turned out that Micki’s ex-husband, Lonnie Loren Kocontes, the one who had taken her on that cruise, killed her in an attempt to inherit her money. But now that it’s been a while, let’s find out exactly what happened to him, shall we?
Who Is Lonnie Loren Kocontes?
Lonnie Loren Kocontes, a former Californian lawyer, wanted his second ex-wife, Micki Kanesaki, dead so that he could financially benefit from the loss. After all, according to Orange County prosecutors, Lonnie stood to gain more than $1 million as the beneficiary of several bank accounts and the sale of a home Micki didn’t want to put on the market if she suddenly passed away. And Lonnie’s third wife, Amy Nguyen – whom he had married and divorced before Micki’s murder – testified to his plans.
Amy claimed that Lonnie and his best friend, Bill Price, who worked as a private investigator, had conspired to kill Micki on the cruise ship. “[Lonnie told me] that Bill’s people will throw Micki in the water, and Bill and his girlfriend will be his witness,” Amy said in court in 2020, adding that when the initial plan didn’t work out, Lonnie revealed that “he would have to take matters into his own hands.” Amy didn’t think that her ex-husband was serious at that time, which is why she didn’t go to the authorities.
But by the time she did come clean to law enforcement in 2013, it was already too late. The investigators subsequently arrested Lonnie from his Safety Harbor, Florida, home, from where he was extradited to California to stand trial. However, even though the former lawyer had drafted Micki’s will, naming himself to be the sole executor and beneficiary, he maintained his innocence for her murder, claiming that he had taken a sleeping pill on May 25, 2006, and had woken up to find Micki missing.
Where Is Lonnie Loren Kocontes Now?
Lonnie Loren Kocontes’ murder trial kept getting delayed as it took the authorities years to determine whether the Orange County DA’s Office should try the case for a crime that took place in international waters. Ultimately, though, the matter was allowed to proceed on local soil under the impression that Lonnie had planned for it in California itself. The months-long trial, which began in February 2020, also saw a lengthy interruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, in the end, in June, with the myriad of testimonies and evidence against Lonnie, he was convicted of first-degree murder with a special circumstance financial gain allegation against him. Thus, in September 2020, Lonnie was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in connection with Micki Kanesaki’s murder. He “almost got away with murder,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement after the sentencing.
“Except for the fact that he strangled her to death before he threw her body overboard. Because she died before she hit the water, her lungs were filled with air…So she floated. And by a miracle, her body was discovered. That miscalculation allowed us to convict him of murder.” Lonnie was also charged with scheming to kill Amy Nguyen for testifying against him, but those were dismissed in light of his life sentence. Today, Lonnie Loren Kocontes, who has been behind bars since his initial arrest in 2013, is incarcerated in a California prison, where he will remain for the rest of his natural life.
Read More: Where Is Amy Nguyen Now?