Feds charge Utah man with wife’s murder aboard cruise ship in Alaska

Passengers wait aboard the Emerald Princess moored on the South Franklin Street Dock in Juneau on Wednesday, July 27, 2017. The FBI investigated an alleged murder after a Utah woman died the day before on the ship. (Photo by Tripp J Crouse/KTOO)

Federal authorities are charging a Utah man in the murder of his wife aboard a cruise ship off the coast of Southeast Alaska.

Listen now

Kenneth Ray Manzanares, 39, of Santa Clara, Utah, is charged in the death of Kristy Manzanares, who died Tuesday.

After about 15 FBI agents conducted approximately 200 passenger and crew interviews in Juneau, the agency announced the charge at a news conference today and released their account of what happened.

The FBI criminal complaint laid out this timeline and cited eyewitness accounts.

Witnesses aboard the Emerald Princess entered the couple’s cabin and saw blood on Manzanares’ hands and clothing. A witness asked what happened, to which he reportedly replied, “She would not stop laughing at me.”

According to the FBI, the witness watched Manzanares drag the woman toward a balcony. The witness pulled her back into the couple’s cabin.

Soon after, at about 9 p.m., Emerald Princess security and medical staff arrived. The woman was dead with a severe head wound. Blood was throughout the room on multiple surfaces. A cruise ship security officer restrained Manzanares and he was arrested the next day.

Alaska’s acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder said Manzanares is charged generally with murder under a federal statute that includes a first- and second-degree component.

The FBI noted in its complaint that Manzanares at one point said, “My life is over.”

Schroder said that’s not necessarily an admission of guilt.

“I don’t think you can burrow into the mind of someone who is a potential defendant in a case with a comment like that and make any real conclusions,” Schroder said.

Schroder could not confirm whether drugs or alcohol were a factor in the incident.

FBI special agent-in-charge Marlin Ritzman talks during a joint news conference Thursday with the Coast Guard, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in regards to the charges in the death of Kristy Manzanares. Her husband, Kenneth Ray Manzanares is charged in her murder aboard the Emerald Princess cruise ship in Southeast Alaska. (Photo by Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Manzanares made an initial appearance at 2 p.m. Thursday in federal court in Anchorage via video conference from Juneau, where he’s being held.

If convicted, Manzanares could face life in prison or the death penalty, and a fine of up to $250,000. He’s scheduled for a preliminary hearing at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 10 in Anchorage.

Schroder gave the alleged crime some context.

“I don’t remember the last time that we’ve had a murder on a cruise ship in Alaska,” Schroder said. “I’ve been here for 12 years and I’m a retired Coast Guard officer so it’s the kind of thing that would mean something to me and I don’t think we’ve had one since I’ve been here.”

Special Agent in Charge Marlin Ritzman said in Juneau, FBI specialists are providing assistance to family members.

Schroder and Ritzman wouldn’t directly confirm that children are involved. But a reporter asked if there was support for “the girls.”

The reporter said, “These girls potentially don’t have parents. I mean they don’t. One’s in jail and one’s dead.”

Ritzman responded, ”They have family members. There’s other family members.”

The investigation is ongoing.

Editor’s note: The story has been updated and expanded to include information about the alleged crime and details about Manzanares’ first appearance.

Alaska Public Media’s Wesley Early contributed to this report.

Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org

Previous articleWhen the lights went out – Alaska’s great recession
Next articleAircraft downed on north side of Lake Clark, recovery efforts underway