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A Utah man who fatally beat his wife aboard a cruise ship after the woman demanded a divorce and mocked him pleaded guilty on Friday, prosecutors announced.
Kenneth Manzanares faces life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2017 murder of his spouse Kristy Manzanares aboard an Emerald Princess cruise liner, according to a copy of the plea agreement obtained by Oxygen.com.
The 42-year-old man, who was supposedly enraged that his wife "would not stop laughing” at him, killed her as their children and other family members watched, a probable cause statement obtained by Oxygen.com stated.
“The outcome of Friday’s change of plea hearing gets us one step closer in seeking justice for Kristy’s family,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt told Oxygen.com.
Manzanares allegedly beat his wife to death after she demanded a divorce from him while the couple and their family were traveling off the coast of Alaska on an Emerald Princess cruise ship more than two years ago. The couple were supposed to be celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary, Inside Edition reported.
The couple began arguing in their cabin around 9 p.m. on July 25, 2017 in front of their 22-year-old daughter and another unidentified minor. The fight was supposedly related to Kenneth's behavior, police said. Kristy told her husband she wanted a divorce and demanded he disembark the ship when it arrived in Juneau and travel back to their home in Utah. The children were then ushered into a relative's adjoining cabin. After hearing screams, they tried to re-enter the room.
“Don’t come in here,” Kenneth Manzanares told the two kids, according to prosecutors.
The children, who bolted to a balcony connecting both rooms, then saw Kenneth Manzanares “straddling” his wife and pummeling her with “closed fists.”
Kenneth Manzanares then tried dragging his battered spouse’s body towards the balcony but was stopped by one of Kristy’s brothers, who “grabbed” her ankles and yanked her back into the cabin.
When family members asked what happened, Manzanares told them his wife was ridiculing him.
“She would not stop laughing at me,” he told relatives, according to the probable cause statement.
When cruise ship medical personnel barged into the couple’s cabin, they discovered Kristy Manzanares with a “severe head wound,” according to the probable cause statement. Her blood was splattered “throughout the room.” Security staff detained and handcuffed Kenneth, who was also covered in blood. Kristy Manzanares died of blunt force trauma to her head and face, prosecutors said.
The ship subsequently declared a “security breach” and docked in Alaska, ABC News reported. Manzanares was officially arrested the next day.
When the FBI questioned him, Manzanares supposedly told investigators, “my life is over.”
One woman recalled seeing one of the couple’s daughters shrieking in the immediate aftermath of the horrific killing.
“She said, ‘I just want to go and see my mom! I just want to see my mom! What’s happening?’” Jen Larson told ABC News.
Some passengers initially thought the panic was staged because the cruise liner had been performing a murder mystery theatre production at the time of Kristy Manzanares’ killing.
“Most people thought it was just part of the dramatic effect of what they were doing.” Vic Simpson told Inside Edition at the time.
Kristy Manzanares, a realtor, was a “devoted mother, daughter, sister, and friend,” a spokesperson for the family said. She was 39.
“Kristy led by example with her giving heart and we are inspired by the legacy of kindness and optimism she has instilled in her children,” Miranda Barnard told PEOPLE.com in 2017.
“She had a glow to her, and filled a room with life,” Kasey Hunt, the woman’s cousin, added. “She was so damn nice to everyone, she was amazing.”
Manzanares will be sentenced on May 28 in federal court, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The Santa Clara man’s legal team wasn’t immediately available for comment on Monday.
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