Cruise ship murder trial delayed after defense files motion declaring case ‘complex and unusual’

ST. GEORGE — The Oct. 23 murder trial for a St. George man accused of killing his wife during an Alaskan cruise in July will be delayed as a result of a motion filed Friday in federal court.

Kristy and Kenneth Manzanares, photo location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Kristy Manzanares Facebook, St. George News

The defense counsel for Kenneth Manzanares filed an unopposed motion to declare the case complex and unusual, which will allow the trial to be scheduled outside the 70-day requirement pursuant to the Speedy Trial Act.

“The ends of justice served by granting this motion outweigh the best interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial,” Friday’s motion stated.

The motion was agreed upon by Assistant United States Attorney Jack Schmidt.

In the filing, federal defender Rich Curtner cites several reasons the case should be declared complex.

“Mr. Manzanares is charged with Murder 1, and the government has yet to determine whether it will seek the death penalty,” Curtner wrote, adding:

At this time, the only discovery provided consists of one video recorded interview. According to the government, approximately 200 recorded interviews were conducted, and the U.S. Coast Guard has prepared over 100 written reports.

Curtner further notes that witnesses live all over the continental United States, and that the federal investigation is ongoing.

“Agents are still interviewing friends and family members in Utah and other states,” Curtner stated. “Those reports are expected to be provided to the government over the course of the next month.”

Kristy Manzanares, Seattle, Washington, July 2017 | Photo courtesy of Miranda Barnard, St. George News

Additionally, Manzanares’ defense counsel resides in Anchorage, Alaska, and Seattle, Washington, while Manzanares is incarcerated at Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau, Alaska.

“This case will involve both extensive travel and employ numerous experts that will also require travel,” according to the filing in which the parties requested a hearing to address the motion as well as to discuss a “realistic trial date.”

Manzanares was indicted by a grand jury last month in the death of his wife, Kristy Manzanares, a 39-year-old mother and St. George real estate agent. He pleaded not guilty in federal court to the first-degree murder charge.

The couple, who had been married for more than 20 years, were traveling aboard the Emerald Princess in July with a large group of family members, including the couple’s three daughters, on a weeklong cruise along the Alaskan panhandle.

Read more: FBI investigating after St. George woman murdered on cruise ship

Two days after the ship left Seattle, Kristy Manzanares was found dead in the couple’s cabin with a severe head wound, according to a criminal complaint by FBI Special Agent Michael L. Watson. Blood was reportedly spread throughout the room on multiple surfaces.

A family member saw Kenneth Manzanares with blood-stained hands and clothing and asked him what had happened, to which the complaint states Kenneth Manzanares allegedly replied, “She would not stop laughing at me.”

Layout of Emerald Princess cabin D726 | Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises website, St. George News

People surrounding the couple’s cabin, including a couple whose room overlooked their balcony, reported loud screaming, a witness on the ship told St. George News.

“All of them said that they were in there just screaming at each other, like it was loud,” witness Natalie Beckstrom said. “Lots of people were out on their balconies watching and listening.”

Read more: St. George resident on Alaskan cruise recounts night Kristy Manzanares was murdered

Watson’s report stated that when Kenneth Manzanares was later being processed during a search by the FBI for physical evidence, “he spontaneously stated, ‘My life is over.’”

Brian Schroder, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Alaska, said during a press conference last month that he couldn’t comment on whether there had been any other domestic violence disputes between the couple on the ship prior to the murder.

Schroder also said he couldn’t speak to whether Kenneth Manzanares was drunk or on drugs during the commission of the crime nor whether he had any history of domestic violence.

According to state court records, Kenneth Manzanares has no criminal history in Utah.

Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Email: kscott@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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