Utah man charged with killing wife on cruise ship in Alaska had brain injury, says defense

The side of a big cruise ship as it sits docked in Juneau.
Passengers wait aboard the Emerald Princess moored on the South Franklin Street Dock in Juneau on Wednesday, July 27, 2017, as the FBI investigated the killing of Kristy Manzanares. (Tripp J Crouse/KTOO)

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A Utah man awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the beating death of his wife on an Alaska cruise had brain abnormalities a defense expert deemed consistent with injuries caused by playing contact sports, according to a court filing in the case.

The filing by federal public defender Jamie McGrady states that this, combined with what was at the time an undiagnosed bipolar disorder and “a problematic combination of prescribed medication and alcohol resulted in an aberrant episode of violence” by Kenneth Manzanares.

Manzanares played football, wrestled and boxed when he was younger and had a history of “testosterone supplementation,” the filing states.

Manzanares’ attorneys, in the filing, say they plan to seek a 7 1/2 year prison sentence. Prosecutors, in a separate filing, say they will recommend a life sentence, saying Manzanares had committed “the most serious crime a person can commit against another.”

Both filings cite a presentence report that calculated a sentencing guideline range between 14 years and 17 1/2 years. They also paint different pictures of Manzanares’ relationship with his wife, Kristy.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt, in a court filing, said on the night of Kristy Manzanares’ death in 2017, the couple argued in their cabin about Kenneth Manzanares’ behavior at dinner. Kristy Manzanares told her husband he should get off the ship in Juneau, where it was headed, and referred to getting a divorce, the filing states.

Two of the couple’s children tried to get in the room when they heard their mother scream and witnessed part of the assault from a balcony, according to Schmidt’s filing, which describes the assault as brutal and violent.

The prosecution filing also states that Kenneth Manzanares said he had in the past broken TV remotes when angry and punched holes in walls and physically restrained his wife.

Manzanares’ attorneys say this was “not a case of simmering resentment and dysfunction that boiled over into an altercation.”

The filing by McGrady states that law enforcement officers interviewed “dozens and dozens” of witnesses and family friends “looking for signs of marital woes,” such as money problems or domestic abuse and “found none of that.”

Kenneth Manzanares didn’t have an explanation for how or why the assault happened, the filing from McGrady states, and he “appreciates the gravity of what he has done.”

“Although he has come to understand more about himself, his impairments and deficits, he knows it is no excuse and this explanation will likely give no comfort to those who loved his wife,” the filing from his attorneys states.

Sentencing is set for next month.

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