By Gustavo Arellano
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By Charles Lam
Nguyen replied, "Yeah."
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"The totality of the evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt Kocontes murdered Kanesaki," says Deputy DA Price, a 2014 police-union-backed candidate for the Long Beach City Council. She concedes there are "dramatic inconsistencies" between the various versions of truth her key witnesses have uttered over the years, but she believes they are now telling the truth. She told the Weekly, "I've made that credibility call."
In her statements to the grand jury that returned the indictment, Price argued that Kocontes planned the Kanesaki murder in Ladera Ranch, wanted to return to his relationship with Nguyen because "she never turned him down for sex," argued with a complaining Kanesaki on their trip, and then strangled and beat her to death before tossing her body off their cabin's balcony.
"She went straight down [to the ocean]," said Price. "She was not raped. She was not robbed. The person who killed her took nothing from her. The person who killed her wanted her gone—that was their only motive."
To Michael, Price's version is wishful thinking, her indictment the result of "vile" cheating by manipulating witness statements and withholding exculpatory evidence from the grand jury. He says the OCDA distracted jurors with character assassination, portraying Kocontes as "a money-grubbing, sexual deviant" and scam artist. And Michael, who is seeking a pretrial dismissal of charges, asks, "How was the grand jury supposed to ignore that 'evidence' and focus on the fact that not a scintilla of forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony was offered to support the [prosecution's theory]?"
The two sides continue to acrimoniously battle over Michael's insistence that the deputy DA committed prosecutorial misconduct and whether Price is correct that case law and Kocontes' purchase of cruise tickets while in Orange County justifies her grabbing jurisdiction for the Mediterranean Sea murder. Meanwhile, the 56-year-old defendant remains locked inside OC's Theo Lacy Jail, where he has been denied bail for more than 14 months. Rackauckas has not announced if he will seek the death penalty.