Lonnie Kocontes' Love Boat

The Irvine lawyer escaped charges he murdered his ex-wife. Then another ex-wife and a friend turned on him

Federal agents had failed to make a case against Kocontes, but they refused to abandon pursuit. In November 2008, DOJ prosecutors declared him guilty of murder in civil proceedings to justify confiscating more than $1 million of his savings from a Florida bank account. Inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, U.S. Magistrate Judge Marc Goldman considered the government's case for guilt, including FBI statistics indicating "the most prevalent form of female homicide is homicide committed by an intimate partner."

The DOJ case failed to impress Goldman. He rejected each of the government's assertions, labeling some of the claims against Kocontes "unsupported speculation," "circular" logic or just wrong. The judge said the evidence indicated the killing did not occur in the couple's cabin and that nobody knows where the crime happened or where the corpse was tossed overboard or even if a killer lurked undetected on the cruise staff.

"While Kocontes was at the scene of the crime, so were the more than 2,000 passengers and crew who were also onboard," wrote Goldman in a 2012 ruling. "Thus, there is no physical, visual or aural evidence linking Kocontes to the murder."

Happier days: Kocontes and Kanesaki
Happier days: Kocontes and Kanesaki
Cameron K. Lewis

FBI agents attempted to find holes in the suspect's story and asserted they'd succeeded by claiming Kocontes lied about Kanesaki also taking an Ambien before her death. Autopsy results for the pill were negative for the drug. But Goldman corrected the government agents. Kocontes had stated they'd both agreed to take the pill, but he'd also noted he didn't know if she had done so because she'd walked inside the cabin's bathroom.

The judge also discarded the use of FBI statistics as evidence of Kocontes' guilt. "While suspicion naturally would focus on the domestic partner in a case such as this, suspicion is not enough," Goldman wrote. "When all is said and done, the government has presented nothing more than allegations and speculation to support its claim that Kocontes murdered Kanesaki."

*     *     *

Kocontes could have continued to evade law enforcement if not for one crucial mistake: He angered his pal Price and McQueen.

In February 2008, Tampa-area resident Edward Bujanowski hired Kocontes to represent him in a civil action for a $25,000 cash deposit and a 30 percent contingency fee. Because he did not have a Florida bar license, Kocontes asked a judge to allow him to use his California bar membership to work on the Bujanowski case pro hac vice—with a special exemption. A judge approved the request in October 2007, but he revoked it two months later, after lawyers for the defendant discovered Kocontes had been sent to prison in Nebraska in the 1970s, according to court records. Lawyer-less, Bujanowski requested the return of his full deposit and ended up suing Kocontes, who was willing to refund only $5,000. He claimed his private investigator—McQueen—had already billed $20,000 in the matter.

That case got messy and, according to Price, resulted in McQueen wanting to "slap Lonnie" in the face. On a recording made by the OCDA's office, Price explained the reason he and McQueen turned on their friend. "[Kocontes] had another lawsuit called the Bujanowski lawsuit, and he tried to put [McQueen] in a bind with those attorneys, and she could have lost her [PI] license and everything else," he said. "He lied about Susan, about taking money. . . . He got her in a lot of trouble."

The Florida couple that had spoken so highly of Kocontes to the FBI in 2006 after Kanesaki's murder now, three years later, were upset by what they saw as an unforgivable betrayal. In January 2009, the two PIs flew to San Francisco, found Nguyen, participated in non-recorded discussions and elicited a new version of events on tape. The teacher claimed she knew in advance about the plot to kill Kanesaki on the cruise, urged Kocontes to not do it (but failed to alert authorities) and claimed Kocontes told her Price would have two mafia characters execute the crime undetected. After the murder, Kocontes planned to return to her, Nguyen contended.

"Lonnie told me that, uh, Bill had a big connection that, uh, we have just have people to do that—throw Micki, throw Micki out of the boat," Nguyen told McQueen.

She also raised two puzzling mysteries. After Kocontes allegedly threatened to use information contained on her laptop computer to name her as an accomplice to the murder, she says, she followed his telephonic orders to remove the hard drive and give it to him. Nguyen also asserted that the real reason Kocontes divorced her was because Kanesaki blackmailed him with a secret document tying him to an unknown financial crime. She says Kocontes told her that Price's associates, the same ones who were supposedly involved in the murder, broke into the Los Angeles home of Kanesaki's parents and retrieved the document before the cruise.

"Lonnie told me," Nguyen said, "that Bill give [sic] him instruction to go marry a mutual girl, get married to somebody else, or both of us to get married so they, that they won't . . ."

"So that it wouldn't look suspicious?" McQueen interrupted.

"Yes."

"After Micki's death?"

"Yes."

McQueen replied, "Lonnie lies a lot."

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16 comments
18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

"Deputy DA Price, a 2014 police-union-backed candidate for the Long Beach City Council"

That will be fun. I can verbally shit on Price and Long Beach police Chief Jim McDonnell at LB city council meetings. This is the asshole Chief that thought it was funny to almost cause a traffic accident when me and my wife were in Long Beach celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary. I wonder if this idiot questioned his white female cop yet?

sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776

hey

oc


your login has a problem 


I havent been able to log in via yahoo for some time now

949girl
949girl topcommenter

I always think men that exclusively date Asian women are a little off.  I can't put my finger on it but there is something odd about a white man only dating Asian women.

949girl
949girl topcommenter

Great article.  What prompted you to write this article now?  Is it going to trial soon?    I almost forgot about this case.  I'm curious, why is this crime being prosecuted in Orange County when the murder took place in Europe?  Is it because it was planned in Orange County?  I can't see the jury believing Nguyen since she's lied so many times. I think this will be one of those cases that will get a hung jury or a not guilty verdict.  But he probably did do it if I had to take a guess.    

jimgilchrist
jimgilchrist

@18usc241  As usual, your comments are not too bright.  Keep posting and you will surely have every reader siding with the cops, which is the most rational thing to do.


Sounds to me like you and your wife were driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.  Not surprising for abusive derelicts of society to always blame someone else for the accidents they cause.  You and your old lady really should get some help from a substance abuse counselor, or simply a psychiatrist, whichever applies.  Hmmm…maybe both?


You two are cry-babies.


Jim Gilchrist, Founder and President, The Minuteman Project

ananemous
ananemous

@949girl  What does that have to do with this article? Kocontes is Asian. Can he exclusively date Asian women?


Whophantom
Whophantom

Because they luv them long time...LOL

rscottmoxley
rscottmoxley topcommenter

@949girl  Thank you for your question. I have followed this investigation from the outset, observed the FBi's failure to win an indictment and, when Orange County prosecutors took the Mediterranean Sea murder case, wondered about the strength of what they claimed were new, case-solving facts. An exploration of those alleged "facts" resulted in this news article.

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

Oh hi genius! Thanks for the good laugh. You obviously don't know who you are talking to. I'm the last Latino American man your collection of law enforcement morons should have screwed with in Orange County.

By the way, your pals in OC law (otherwise known as the poor man's version of Donald Sterling) would know if I'm a drunkard or druggie since they flushed millions of taxpayer dollars playing racist hate crime games with me since Stan Knee and Brad Gates. Why don't you ask them?

By the way, so classy of you to bring my wife into the discussion.

And LBPD + Chief are still just following orders monkeys. No change since last comment.

949girl
949girl topcommenter

@sweetliberty17761776 @949girlNot even.  Just my opinion that guy's who exclusively date Asian women are strange.  Maybe I struck a nerve with you.  lol

ted.mendez
ted.mendez

@rscottmoxley @949girlNice reply, Moxley. And very interesting story. Seems like it's going to be hard for a jury to believe the "star witness" or that calculating PI. I can see Nguyen being shredded on cross-examination. Nonetheless, very strange goings on in this one.

949girl
949girl topcommenter

@sweetliberty17761776 @949girlIt's not racism to think white men who only date Asian women are weird.  It's an opinion.  My opinion is is that white guys who only date asians are strange. 

949girl
949girl topcommenter

@whateveryousay @949girl@sweetliberty17761776Thank you @whateveryousay.  It wasn't coming from a racist place.  The defendant has 3 women mentioned in this article that are Asian (Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai) so maybe I'm jumping to conclusions when i say he exclusively dates asians but I don't think I'm wrong based on his pattern.  I know a few people through work or mutual friends or even a couple of aquaintances who have an older white dad and broken english speaking Filipino mom.  Every relationship that involves an older white guy and an Asian woman who doesn't speak English that well are just weird...period.  Even the children of these couples have said that their family life was strange. 

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

@949girl @sweetliberty17761776  949 is spot on.  I have a friend from long ago that is an Asian only dating guy.  Even before I knew that I thought something was up with him.  He's not evil, just off.  

He calls it Yellow-Fever.


 
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