Utah Man Convicted of Murdering Wife in Front of Daughters on Family Cruise Found Dead in Prison Cell

July 21, 2021

By Kat Lincks 

A Utah man, who was sentenced last month to 30 years in prison for beating his wife to death in front of two of their daughters during a family cruise, has been found dead in his Alaskan prison cell. 

Kenneth Ray Manzanares, 43, was found unresponsive in his cell last Wednesday morning, July 14, at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau, Alaska. According to the Alaska Department of Corrections, he was pronounced dead shortly after emergency responders arrived on the scene. 

“Correctional officers and medical staff responded and immediately began performing life-saving measures until emergency responders arrived on scene at 7:14 a.m.,” the authorities said in their press release. “EMS pronounced Manzanares dead at 7:42 a.m.”

The Department of Corrections has not yet revealed the cause of death, but they have stated that “this death is not COVID-19 related,” and “no foul play is suspected.”

Manzanares has been in Alaskan custody since the murder of his wife, Kristy Manzanares, on June 25, 2017. In early June of this year, he was sentenced to three decades behind bars after pleading guilty to second-degree murder for killing his wife during a family vacation aboard the Emerald Princess cruise ship.

“In 2017 Kenneth Manzanares brutally murdered his wife Kristy Manzanares while on an Alaskan cruise with their three daughters and extended family members,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Wilson of the District of Alaska. “This was not a random act of violence but a chilling neglect for human life for which he will serve 30 years in federal prison, where there is no parole ever.”

According to federal prosecutors, 39-year-old Kristy Manzanares had told her husband she wanted a divorce, asking him to disembark from the ship once it docked in Juneau to go back  home— alone— to Santa Clara, Utah.

The murder occured a couple of days into the cruise, following an argument between the couple. During dinner, Kenneth Manzanares, who had been drinking, behaved badly, “forcibly kissing Kristy against her wishes,” as written in the prosecutors’ sentencing memo. 

One of Kristy’s brothers argued with Kenneth, after which the couple left dinner with their oldest and youngest daughters, returning to their 323-square-foot cabin. During the subsequent argument over Kenneth’s behavior, Kristy said she was “done” with him.

“She kept saying, ‘I’m done. We need to figure out a way to get you off the boat in Juneau. I knew you’d find a way to ruin this trip,’” Kenneth later told the police.

When Kristy brought up divorce, Kenneth told their two daughters to leave the room. They went next door to their grandparent’s adjoining room.

The brutal and bloody beating that followed left Kristy completely unrecognizable. 

Hearing screams coming from the room, the girls rushed onto the connected balcony and saw their father striking their mother on the head, using “his fist as a hammer.” Unable to open either door, they ran to find help. 

As stated in the sentencing memo, Kristy’s brother, Dallas Hunt, “found Manzanares on the balcony, covered in blood, and asked Manzanares what he had done, in which Manzanares replied, ‘She wouldn’t stop laughing at me.’ The cabin was covered in blood.”

Kenneth fought with his brother-in-law, while one of the girls ran to get the rest of the family. Manzanares then dragged his dying wife onto the balcony and attempted to toss her body overboard, but Hunt was able to intervene. 

Kristy’s father arrived next and attempted to “render aid to Kristy who was unrecognizable,” according to the prosecutors. “It was immediately apparent to Kristy’s father that she was not going to survive her injuries, as she was not breathing nor had a pulse.” 

Security and medical personnel were unable to resuscitate Kristy. Her death was ruled a homicide by blunt force trauma to her head and face and Kenneth Manzanares was arrested at port the following day.

Prosecutors sought a life sentence for Manzanares, arguing a history of anger issues. He remained in custody from the time of his arrest on a federal warrant until his sudden death, only a month into his 30 year sentence. 

According to a probable cause statement, Kenneth and Kristy Manzanares— who were high school sweethearts— had been on the cruise to celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary at the time of her murder at the hands of her own husband. 

*If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.*