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Utah man pleads guilty to killing wife on cruise ship off Alaska

Kenneth Manzanares, 42, killed his wife inside their cabin on a cruise ship in 2017, after she said she wanted a divorce, prosecutors said.
Image: Emerald Princess
The Emerald Princess cruise ship docked in Juneau, Alaska on July 26, 2017.Becky Bohrer / AP file

A Utah man accused of killing his wife aboard a cruise ship in Alaska pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Friday, federal prosecutors said.

Kenneth Manzanares, 42, entered the plea in federal court in Anchorage, where he faces a sentence of up to life in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska said in a statement.

Manzanares killed his wife, Kristy Manzanares, in their cabin aboard the Emerald Princess while it was off Juneau on July 25, 2017, officials said.

Prosecutors said Manzanares killed his wife after they got into an argument and she said she wanted a divorce, telling him to get off the ship in Juneau and return to Utah.

Their 22-year-old daughter and an unidentified minor child, who had been ordered to leave the cabin and went to an adjoining room, heard Kristy Manzanares scream. From a balcony connecting the two rooms, they saw Manzanares straddling his wife and hitting her in the head with his closed fists, federal prosecutors said.

The daughter went for help, and Kristy Manzanares' father and two brothers arrived to find Manzanares trying to drag her to a balcony, according to court documents. One of the brothers grabbed her ankles and pulled her back into the cabin, prosecutors said.

Security arrived and restrained Manzanares. Medics tried to save his wife's life, but were unsuccessful. Officials ruled she died of blunt-force trauma.

Manzanares allegedly said "she would not stop laughing at me," according to a criminal complaint.

Manzanares was charged with murder in the first degree. A plea agreement document says he admitted to hitting his wife twice, but that he had no memory after that point.

After Manzanares was in custody, he said, "my life is over," according to court documents.

Bryan Schroder, U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska, said in a statement that millions of visitors come to Alaska each year, and such a “brutal crime” was a rare exception. “Our hearts go out to the family and those close to Kristy Manzanares,” he said in a statement.

Sentencing appears to have been set for late May, according to online court records.

A request for comment from attorneys listed as representing Manzanares was not immediately returned Friday night.