Southern Utah man to plead guilty to wife’s 2017 murder aboard Alaskan cruise ship

Kristy and Kenneth Manzanares. Photo: Facebook

JUNEAU, Alaska, Feb. 4, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — A Southern Utah man accused of the 2017 beating death of his wife aboard a cruise ship near Alaska is expected to plead guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder, federal court documents reveal.

Kenneth Manzanares, from Utah’s Washington County, was originally charged with first-degree murder of 39-year-old Kristy Lee Hunt Manzanares, his high school sweetheart and the mother of their three daughters. She died of blunt force trauma on July 25, 2017.

At the time of the victim’s death, the Emerald Princess cruise ship was in territorial waters off Alaska, so the case was filed in federal court.

The probable cause statement in the case says Kenneth Manzanares, then 39, told someone who responded to the room where his wife’s body was found that “she would not stop laughing at me.”

The plea deal reveals additional details.

“The defendant (Kenneth Manzanares) and Kristy Manzanares began arguing about the defendant’s behavior that evening, and, during the discussion, Kristy Manzanares stated she wanted to divorce the defendant,” the plea document says. “She told him to disembark the vessel at Juneau in order for him to travel back home to Utah.”

Kenneth Manzanares then told the couple’s then-22-year-old daughter and one of their young daughters to leave the room, the statement says. Minutes later, the daughters heard Kristy scream, and tried to re-enter from the adjoining room of another family member, “when the defendant told them ‘don’t come in here,'” the plea statement says.

“Minor #1 and the 22-year old daughter then went to the connected balcony and observed the defendant straddling Kristy Manzanares, who was on the floor. The defendant was striking Kristy Manzanares in the head with closed fists.”

The oldest daughter left to summon help, the statement says.

“Kristy Manzanares’ two brothers and father arrived on scene and observed the defendant pulling Kristy Manzanares towards the balcony by her legs. One of Kristy Manzanares’ brothers grabbed Kristy Manzanares and brought her back into the room, where he observed severe blunt force trauma to Kristy Manzanares’ head and face area.”

The ship’s security and medical personnel arrived and attempted to perform life saving measures on Kristy Manzanares, who was pronounced deceased about 17 minutes later, at 9:20 p.m., the statement says.

An autopsy was performed by the Alaska State Medical Examiner determined the victim died from “blunt force trauma” the plea document states.

Kenneth Manzanares, interviewed later, told officers he and the victim had an argument.

“The defendant admitted to striking Kristy Manzanares once with a closed fist, seeing blood and striking Kristy Manzanares another time, and stated he had no memory after that point,” the plea document says.

The proposed plea document states that Kenneth Manzanares can be sentenced to “any term of years to life imprisonment; a $250,000 fine; a $100 special assessment; and five years of supervised release.”

A judge has not yet formally accepted the plea agreement, and a sentencing date has not yet been set.

Kristy Lee Hunt Manzanares. Photo: Facebook

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