A Utah man who pleaded guilty to killing his wife is being sentenced in United States District Court at the Hurff A. Saunders Federal Building, seen here on June 2, 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

A Utah man who pleaded guilty to killing his wife is being sentenced in United States District Court at the Hurff A. Saunders Federal Building, seen here on June 2, 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Man charged for cruise ship killing to be sentenced soon

Suspect pleaded guilty to killing his wife aboard ship in 2017.

The defense argued Wednesday for leniency in the sentencing of a Utah man charged with the murder of his wife on the Emerald Princess in 2017.

Kenneth Manzanares, 43, pleaded guilty in 2020 to the beating death of his wife, Kristy Manzanares, aboard a cruise at sea on July 25, 2017. The case went to federal court due to the killing occurring aboard a vessel underway.

“I’m sorry that this happened and that there’s nothing I can say to change this,” Manzanares said in a statement to the court. “I struggle every day to understand what happened.”

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The brutality of the killing, Burgess said in court, had given him reason for pause in considering the strength of the sentencing.

Federal public defender Jamie McGrady spoke in court for leniency in the sentencing, citing Manzanares’ poor mental health at the time of the incident, poor reaction to medicine given to treat that and a prior brain injury.

McGrady also pointed to Manzanares’ “model” behavior while incarcerated in Lemon Creek Correctional Center for the past four years, indicating a record untarnished by willfulness or lack of cooperation with Department of Corrections personnel.

Manzanares has worked with therapists, McGrady said, while avoiding such medications as allegedly caused him to commit murder in the first place.

Manzanares’ guilty plea came with a deal reducing the charge from first-degree murder to second-degree murder, which carries less stringent sentencing requirements. The punishment for second-degree murder is imprisonment for any term of years up to life.

He is due to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess, chief judge of the District of Alaska, on Thursday morning.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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