A wedding anniversary is meant to be a happy occasion—and it’s a reason to celebrate your union with your partner. Unfortunately, like any of the most celebratory moments in life, there is always the potential for the unexpected and, sadly, even disaster.

Rarely has that been more true than the case of Kristy and Kenneth Manzanares. Along with their family, they headed out on a cruise to honor their eighteenth wedding anniversary. Yet the trip did not go as planned, and it quickly went from being bad to an absolute nightmare…

Kristy and Kenneth Manzanares were high school sweethearts before they decided to get married, and for many years, their life together was full of happiness and love.

The couple, who had three daughters, lived in St. George, Utah. Kristy was known as a hardworking real estate agent who also spent a great deal of time volunteering and rooting for her daughters at their soccer games.

 Everything was going well, so naturally, the couple wanted to do something special for their eighteenth anniversary. On July 25, 2017, they invited their family to join them on a cruise to Alaska. What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, Kenneth and Kristy struggled and argued occasionally just as any other couple would, but their relationship always seemed to be a strong one. This trip was set to reaffirm their commitment to each other.

The celebratory cruise was set to take the family—along with some 1,100 crew members and 3,400 passengers—from Seattle, Washington, to Alaska. The Emerald Princess cruise ship was truly a luxury liner, but it would soon be the site of an unimaginable tragedy…

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Shortly after leaving port, things took a turn for the worse when family members noticed Kenneth becoming drunk and belligerent at dinner. This was only the beginning of the trouble, however…

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To avoid causing a scene, Kristy decided to bring her husband back to their room so he could up and calm down. The tension was palpable, but no one expected just how bad things were about to get.

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That same night, the cruise was hosting a Sherlock Holmes-themed musical murder mystery. At around 9 p.m., the captain’s voice sounded through the loudspeakers to make a vessel-wide announcement.

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The captain’s voice was urgent: “Everyone, we need all medical, security, all personnel to deck 9 and deck 14.” Initially, passengers assumed it was all just part of the entertainment… but they were very, very wrong.

A passenger named Vic Simpson later told People, “Then two more times they came on and asked for more security and medical teams, but again it just fit in so well with the murder mystery because it was about a murder on a cruise ship.” Was this announcement part of the program, or was there an emergency?

Little did anyone know that the ominous announcements weren’t part of the murder mystery program at all—they were real. Earlier that night, Kristy had become outraged by her husband’s behavior and had reportedly asked him for a divorce. Furious that his wife would want to leave him after nearly 20 years, Kenneth attacked her.

Allegedly, they were embroiled in an argument that was so loud, other guests reported that they could hear it from rooms both above and below them. Then, Kenneth grabbed his wife and repeatedly bludgeoned her to death. 

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When medical and security personnel arrived, they found blood covering the cabin—and Kristy’s body on the floor with a serious head injury. It became abundantly clear that this was a genuine crime scene.

It wasn’t long before the staff realized there was no saving her. Kristy, who was lying in a pool of her own blood, was officially pronounced dead 20 minutes after her body was discovered.

“I heard terrible screaming, I mean you knew it wasn’t normal,” explained Charles Rowlen, a passenger in the room above Kristy and Kenneth. Another, Chris Ceman, was just across the hall when “one of the little girls from that room came running out, calling for help, that her parents had been in a fight.”

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“She would not stop laughing at me,” Kenneth allegedly said after a family member ran into the room and realized what he’d done. He then tried to jump off the balcony, but security quickly handcuffed him.

“If they were having [marital issues] they never showed any of that to anyone else,” said one family member. “I’ve never seen Kenny like an angry person ever,” said another. “It’s hard to believe. It’s shocking.”

Juneau, Alaska, was the closest place that the captain could dock the ship. FBI investigators reached the cruise liner that morning and officially began their investigation of the crime scene.

On July 26, the day after the incident, federal officials placed Kenneth under arrest. He reportedly muttered “my life is over” as he was being processed by FBI agents, although he later pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

Kenneth was held in a Juneau jail to await his trial in late 2018. “We are devastated over the loss of Kristy,” said Kristy’s family in a statement. “Kristy led by example with her giving heart and we are inspired by the legacy of kindness and optimism she has instilled in her children.” What a tragedy.

This is an absolutely horrifying story. Hopefully the family—and especially Krissy and Kenneth’s daughters—is able to heal and find justice soon.

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