‘She would not stop laughing at me:’ Husband charged with wife’s cruise-ship murder off Juneau
A husband accused of killing his Utah wife aboard a cruise ship traveling along Southeast Alaska now stands charged with murder, according to federal authorities.
Kenneth Manzanares of Santa Clara, Utah was detained in the death of Kristy Manzanares aboard the Emerald Princess, according to a statement from acting U.S. attorney for Alaska Bryan Schroder’s office. Both husband and wife were 39 years old when Kristy was killed Tuesday.
Princess Cruises said Wednesday that Kristy Manzanares died at about 9 p.m. Tuesday during a domestic dispute aboard the ship, which was in U.S. waters en route from Ketchikan to Juneau at the time.
At an Anchorage press conference on the charges Thursday morning, Schroder said the case was apparently unique during his 12 years of federal service in the state.
“I don’t remember the last time we had a murder on a cruise ship in Alaska,” Schroder said.
Marlin Ritzman, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Anchorage office, said agents conducted approximately 200 interviews of passengers and crew members during their initial investigation.
Ritzman and Schroder declined to discuss details of the case beyond those revealed in court documents to date.
An affidavit filed in the case by FBI Special Agent Matthew Judy said that an initial report of Kristy Manzanares’ death was relayed to the bureau by Princess officials at about 10:15 p.m. Tuesday. She had been found dead in the Manzanares’ cabin and pronounced dead by medics about an hour earlier.
“(Kristy Manzanares) had a severe head wound and blood was spread throughout the room on multiple surfaces,” Judy wrote.
A security officer aboard the Emerald Princess discovered blood on Kenneth Manzanares’ hands and clothing, and secured him in handcuffs in an adjacent cabin.
A number of people had previously entered the Manzanares’ room, Judy wrote. One of them told security officers that he saw Kristy Manzanares “lying on the floor covered in blood.”
“(The witness) asked Kenneth Manzanares what had happened to which Manzanares replied, ‘She would not stop laughing at me,’” Judy wrote.
The witness said he saw Kenneth Manzanares drag his wife towards the balcony. The witness then said he grabbed the ankles of Kenneth Manzanares’ wife’s body and pulled her back into the cabin.
Emerald Princess passenger Charles Rowlen told KTVA he and his wife were in a room two floors above where the incident took place Tuesday night.
“It was evening for us, I had turned in and my wife was taking a shower and I heard terrible screaming, I mean you knew it wasn’t normal,” Rowlen said. “And it sounded like two or three ladies or girls, definitely women screaming.”
Rowlen said his wife looked over the balcony and saw a man, bruised, cut and covered in blood.
“My wife’s a registered nurse, she thought he was going to jump over the rail, and at one point he put his hand on the rail and set his rear on it, but she started yelling get back in and the ship announced, get a security team to that area,” he said.
CBS News reported that former neighbors of Kristy Manzanares said she had been celebrating an anniversary at the time of her death.
Passengers told CBS she was part of a couple and traveling with a large group which included their children. A “murder mystery” dinner had been taking place when announcements related to the death were heard over the ship’s intercom system, which initially left listeners unsure what had happened.
The Emerald Princess, which had been on a one-week cruise out of Seattle, arrived in Juneau Wednesday morning. It was boarded by FBI officials, as passengers were kept aboard for most of the day.
When Manzanares was being processed by the FBI during a search, Judy wrote, he spontaneously said, “My life is over.”
The Coast Guard Investigative Service initially looked into the case, Schroder said Thursday. Numerous federal, state and local agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, Alaska State Troopers and the Juneau Police Department were also subsequently involved.
Rear Adm. Michael McAllister, commander of the Coast Guard’s 17th District, said the CGIS had fully handed the case over to the FBI.
“The FBI is frankly better equipped than my small contingent of investigators to continue the investigation,” McAllister said.
Manzanares appeared in Federal court in Anchorage via video conference from Juneau for an arraignment Thursday afternoon. He kept his head down, except when answering the judge’s “yes” and “no” questions and expressed interest in moving his case to Juneau.
The judge decided to detain Manzanares until the matter is “resolved,” given the serious nature of the case and out of concern he will be a flight risk, — due to the fact that he has no ties to Alaska.
Daniella Rivera contributed information to this story.