It started as a dream vacation to help repair a broken marriage. A couple sets off on the high seas, but instead that cruise would turn into high drama when one of them disappears.
This was supposed to be the romantic cruise to rekindle the love affair between Lonnie Kocontes and his ex-wife Micki.
Their relationship had weathered some rough waters, which included lies, infidelity, broken promises, even divorce.
It looked like the two had found love again, but their European cruise would end not with reconciliation, but in one of the most twisted murder mysteries authorities had ever seen.
When Lonnie Kocontes met Micki Kanesaki, he was in his late 40s, already once-divorced. He was an attorney at a prominent Los Angeles law firm. She was seven years younger, and a paralegal at his firm when the two decided to marry in 1995.
Micki's brother Toshi says things were going well, until Micki got wind of an alleged sexual encounter between Lonnie and a younger woman. Not long after that Toshi says Lonnie lost his job at that big law firm and things went from bad to worse for the couple. Pretty soon the marriage breaks down completely, with Lonnie and Micki filing for divorce.
Lonnie moves out of their house in Ladera Ranch, California, and shortly after that marries wife number three.
But now things get complicated. Lonnie has a new wife, but he and Micki still have joint ownership of their house. Toshi says Micki is on disability for arthritis in her hands and is not working, but that Lonnie presses her to sell the house, worth $700,000, so he can get his 50 percent share of the profit.
And now Lonnie pulls a complete 180. Only a few months into their marriage, he divorces wife number three and moves back into the house with Micki. But the reconciliation quickly hits a rough patch.
Police are called more than once to the house to calm things down between Micki and Lonnie.
And yet, it was around this time Lonnie apparently comes up with the idea of taking Micki on a Mediterranean cruise to patch things up between them. The couple heads to Europe and boards the ship, named Island Escape in Spain. It's supposed to be the trip of a lifetime. But by the time it's over, one of these two will be dead.
Romance soon turns to mystery when only one of them comes home.
It's Lonnie. He later tells police that after three days onboard, he and Micki were in their cabin late at night when Micki told him she was going to the ship's canteen. Lonnie says he woke up hours later, but she still wasn't back. He says he searched everywhere on board for her, even checked with other passengers, but there was no sign of Micki.
After being questioned and released, Lonnie is put up at a hotel in Naples while Italian authorities investigate Micki's disappearance. The very next day, Lonnie catches a plane back to the U.S., going directly to the home of wife number three.
Thirty-six hours after Micki goes missing, a stunning development at sea: Several miles off the Italian coast, a lone research vessel encounters something floating in the water: It's Micki, and she's dead.
After an autopsy on Micki's body, authorities reach one stunning conclusion: This was no accident. The examination reveals she was strangled, and was dead before she hit the water. She had her jewelry with her, and appeared not to have been robbed.
Who did it? Back in the United States the FBI takes a closer look at Lonnie. He is not charged with the murder. But there are plenty of questions about his actions leading up to that fatal cruise.
As the FBI moves to build a case against Lonnie, he gets the support of none other than his third wife, the same one he dumped after a short marriage before returning to Micki, and the first one he turned to after somebody dumped Micki into the sea. Her testimony will later be of special interest to Lonnie's defense attorney Correen Ferrentino. Lonnie is also backed by a friend who is also a private investigator.
Two years after his ex-wife Micki is strangled and dumped over the rail of a cruise ship, Lonnie Kocontes faces a judge for the first time. He is charged with her murder by the U.S. Department of Justice and pleads not guilty.
But in a stinging reversal for prosecutors, a federal judge in California rejects the FBI's case for murder, saying the government offered only allegations and speculation to support the charges and that:
"There is no physical, visual or aural evidence linking Kocontes to the murder," according to U.S. Magistrate Judge Marc Goldman.
Lonnie's wife number three testifies to his innocence throughout the ordeal, as does his friend and private investigator. And now Lonnie is a free man.
He moves to Florida and he marries wife number four.
Six years after the murder, the case winds up in the hands of the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
Key witnesses, including Lonnie's third wife, who initially defended Lonnie, are now changing their stories and turning on Lonnie with a vengeance. The third wife came forward with information about Lonnie's statements regarding the crime, and stated that she was threatened.
But defense attorney Correen Ferrentino says that wife number three was coached by a former friend of Lonnie's, a private investigator who turned on Lonnie after a bitter financial dispute between the two.
In response the Orange County District Attorney's Office says they are looking forward to a trial.
And based largely on wife number three's testimony, Lonnie is arrested and brought back to California from Florida in handcuffs, where he remains behind bars.
Prosecutors say that while in prison Lonnie tried to have wife number three killed to prevent her from testifying against him. Now he's charged not only with murdering wife number two, but charged with soliciting to murder wife number three.
Lonnie Kocontes has pleaded not guilty to the new charges as he heads into his fourth year behind bars.
But the case is once again moving ahead in the courts. Lonnie Kocontes is due back in court next week, and Crime Watch Daily will bring you the latest on his trial.