A Utah man was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in prison in thein 2017, with a federal judge describing the crime as violent and brutal. Prosecutors had requested life in prison for Kenneth Manzanares, who pleaded guilty last year to second degree murder in the death of his wife, . His lawyers asked for 7 and a half years.
Kenneth Manzanares briefly looked back, to where two of his daughters sat in the courtroom, before being taken away after U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess announced his decision.
Manzanares’ lawyers, in a court file, said he had brain abnormalities that a defense expert found compatible with injuries from contact sports. This, combined with what at the time was undiagnosed bipolar disorder and “a problematic combination of prescription drugs and alcohol resulted in an aberrant episode of violence,” the file says.
But Burgess said there was competing evidence on Manzanares’ guilt and that experts had failed to show what factors led to the crime.
Prosecutors had disputed the defense medical claims and, in court documents, described Manzanares’ actions as intentional, “triggered by his wife telling him that she wanted him to leave the cruise ship and that she wanted divorce”. Prosecutors said Kristy Manzanares told her husband she wanted a divorce during an argument over her behavior on the night she died.
A passenger on the ship, Ruby Plata, was with her husband on the ship when she heard an announcement over the intercom.
“Whoever spoke was scared enough because his voice was shaking,” she told CBS News’s Jamie Yuccas. “They said it was a domestic altercation.”
Another passenger, Chris Ceman, told Yuccas he was on the ninth floor in a room across from where it happened.
“One of the little girls in that room ran out, crying for help, as her parents had been fighting. She looked rather desperate, but the crew arrived as quickly as they could. “said Ceman.
Prosecutors said Kenneth Manzanares was having anger issues and admitted to having held his wife in the past and punched holes in the walls. Defense attorneys said the couple had a “long and happy marriage,” and Jamie McGrady, a federal public defender representing Manzanares, accused prosecutors of selectively analyzing the details of Manzanares’ statements in an attempt to portray him as someone abusive.
Burgess said Kristy Manzanares’ life was “viciously ended” by her husband in an attack that was partially witnessed by two of the couple’s children. Kristy Manzanares’ brothers and father, who were also on the cruise, responded and witnessed the scene afterwards, prosecution documents show.
The plea agreement signed by Manzanares allows for an appeal of the “reasonableness” of the sentence. McGrady told The Associated Press that an appeal will be filed.
She called the sentence a tragedy and said the judge ignored the scientific evidence.
Manzanares lawyers, in a court file last month, asked Burgess to consider the wishes of the Manzanares children, who they say hold their father responsible but “also understand that his disabilities played a major role. in the events that have happened, and they have already lost a parent. “
Two girls who made statements on the emotional first day of the sentencing hearing on Wednesday spoke about their father but did not speak of a specific sentence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt said Manzanares was held accountable. Although it is not worth the sentence requested by prosecutors, “I hope the healing process can begin” for the family, he said.
A statement released by Kristy Manzanares’ family said the decision “brings us neither joy nor anger. On the contrary, just a sense of resolve. We believe the court made a fair and just decision. However, the legal system does not and is not intended to fill the emotional void of our loss. “
“While this marks the end of another chapter in this unimaginable ordeal, the point is that Kristy’s three daughters are still without both parents, and our goal now is to support them as best we can,” says the communicated.