THE DEATHS OF THE KORKKI SISTERS
Anne Korkki (referred to as Annie) was 37, and her sister Robin was 41 when they left to go on a ‘dream’ African vacation. They had planned to travel through Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar. Their final stop was due to be a luxury island resort in the Seychelles. Annie worked at JPMorgan Chase in Denver, Colorado and Robin worked as a financial trader in Chicago. They were both said to be in good physical condition and were experienced travellers.
The sisters posted on social media about their trip. They left for Africa on September 1, 2016.
According to Seychelles Nation, the sisters planned on vacationing at their final stop at the Maia Luxury Resort and Spa from September 15-22, but were apparently having such a wonderful time that they decided to extend the trip to September 24.
On September 20, Anne, who goes by “Annie.” posted a comment to Facebook that read, “Wish you were here…SERIOUSLY BEST TRIP EVER.”
Rooms at this hotel cost around $2,000 per night.
Their brother, Chris Korkki, told the Star Tribune that his sisters were “healthy and adventurous,” and “definitely wanted to experience life to the fullest.”
On the day/night of September 21, it has been reported that the sisters were seen drinking at bars throughout the hotel. From the sounds of things, they may have been quite intoxicated as some reports say they were helped back to their room by their butler). I think the butler service came included with their room price.
The following day, September 22, the butler returned to the room at around 8.45am and noticed that the door was closed and locked in the exact way that he had left it the night before. I guess he assumed the sisters were sleeping in so he left. He returned to the villa around midday and became alarmed when he noticed there had still been no movement.
He informed his supervisor and that started the chain of events – police were called. When they entered the sisters villa, both women were found unresponsive. Most reports I have found say that they were laying in the same bed.
Police Spokesperson Jean Toussaint said “From the observation done by our police officers, there was no disturbance in the room and the two sisters were found unresponsive on the same bed,” he said.
Preliminary exams conducted on the women did not indicate any signs of violence or a struggle.
Medications in the room were confiscated by police for further investigation.
“What the police can say about the investigation so far is that the two sisters were consuming alcohol throughout the day,” Jean Toussaint said “and the last time they were seen drinking alcohol was at around quarter to seven and they were helped to their bedroom by hotel personnel at around 8.15 pm.’
On September 30, 2016, preliminary causes of death for the women were released. Robin died of “acute pulmonary edema” and Anne died from “acute pulmonary and cerebral edema,” police spokesman Jean Toussaint told NBC News.
Both Annie’s lungs and brain were full of fluid, but excess water was found in only Robin’s lungs.
Toussaint said officials hoped to learn more from a toxicology report that is currently being processed at a lab on Mauritius, an island around 1,000 miles away from the Indian Ocean resort archipelago.
The autopsy determined there were “no visible signs of injuries found on the bodies,” Toussaint added.
“When we see pulmonary edema, it’s a non-specific finding you see in lots of different things,” Dr. Judy Melinek told the Chicago Tribune.”So if you have an elderly person, it could be from heart failure,” she explained.
She said poison or drug use could also be a cause.
“We still don’t know how they died,” their brother, Chris Korkki, told NBC News from his home in Minnesota on Thursday. “The U.S. Embassy has been incredibly helpful but there are more questions than answers.”
On December 3, 2016, a final ruling was made in the deaths of Annie and Robin.
According to the statement, Robin Marie Korkki, 42, died of “acute pulmonary edema due to acute combined drug intoxication (codeine, morphine and alcohol)” while Anne Marie Korkki, 37, died of “acute pulmonary and cerebral edema due to acute combined drug intoxication (codeine, morphine and alcohol).”
“The manner of the death of both sisters has been determined to be accidental,” the statement adds.
Anne had been a member of Denver Synchronicity, which said in a statement that she was “a beautiful skater with a bright smile, infectious laugh, and an absolute love for life.”
“We lost a beautiful spirit far too soon,” the team added. “We will miss you dearly, Annie. This season is for you.”
THE MURDER OF KRISTY MANZANARES
On Sunday July 23, 2017, Kristy Manzanares boarded an Alaska bound Emerald Princess – a Princess Cruse lines ship with her family – husband Kenneth and their three daughters. Other extended family were also on the trip.
There is a very ‘final images’ photo of Kristy that is pretty well known – it’s a photo of her boarding the cruise ship with her suitcase. She is smiling at the camera and holding a drink.
As some background, Kenny’s LinkedIn page said he was working as a “licensed sales producer” for an insurance company. The page says he previously worked as a general manager for a company selling folding tables and chairs. He said he had an associate’s degree from Broadview University in Sports and Exercise.
He also has a profile on a Utah Bail Bonds site. It reads, “Kenny has spent the last 12 years living and working in St. George, Utah. Kenny has three daughters and has been married for 13 years. Prior to becoming the manager at Wal-Greens Kenny worked as a counselor in various youth programs. Kenny has been with Bad Boys Bail Bonds Utah since the beginning of 2011.”
Kristy Manzanares was a native of Utah “who made her way to St. George by way of Southern Utah University. She has a Bachelors Degree in Family and Consumer Science with an Emphasis in Interior Design,” her realtor’s bio says.
“Her past experience includes Community Association and Resort Management in which she learned the importance of building relationships and trust through constant communication and top-notch customer service. Her love of touring new homes, interior decor and a desire to provide positive experiences to new home buyers prompted her to obtain her Real Estate License in 2010,” said the bio.
I believe Kenneth and Kristy had been married for around 20 years – their anniversary would have been in August 2017. Some reports say that the cruise was a planned anniversary trip while other articles deny that.
There were 3,400 guests and 1,100 employees on the ship for this cruise.
According to the complaint and an affidavit which I will put on the blog if you want to read it, the FBI received a telephone call on July 25 at about 10:13 p.m. from a company security officer for Holland America Group who “advised that there had been what appeared to be a homicide aboard the cruise ship Emerald Princess.”
“They just said, ‘Security breach! Security breach!’ ” one witness, Jen Larson, told ABC News. “We could tell by the sound of his voice that it was something really scary and really serious.”
Other witnesses told ABC that they heard a woman “screaming for her life.”
Jen Larson also said that she saw one of Kristy’s daughters screaming. “She was just really scared,” Larson recalled. “She said, ‘I just want to go and see my mom! I just want to see my mom! What’s happening?’ ”
Another unnamed witness spoke to KTUU about his experience“I get to floor nine,” he said. “I see this little girl sitting on – I assume – her grandma or somebody, sitting on her lap wrapped up in a blanket. And she’s just sobbing. A man came walking out from the hallway where it happened, and he had, like, a white tank top on, and some jeans. His jeans were completely covered in blood and he came out saying, ‘It’s not good, it’s not good.’”
A witness told security he went into the couple’s cabin and saw Kristy on the floor, covered in blood. When he saw Kenneth with blood on his hands and clothing, he asked what happened, to which Kenneth allegedly replied, “She would not stop laughing at me.”
Kenneth then allegedly grabbed his wife’s body and dragged it towards the cabin’s balcony. The witness told security that he himself grabbed Kristy’s ankles and pulled her back inside the cabin. Moments later, security arrived.
While he was being processed by the FBI, Kenneth allegedly said, “My life is over.”
There is a random ‘source’ who told People that Kristy told Kenneth she wanted a divorce on the night he killed her. “He had been acting terrible all night,” the source says. The source adds that at some point that evening, Kristy asked for a divorce. At that point, Kenneth allegedly “snapped” and killed her, the source says.
Kristy “was found with a severe head wound in a room in which blood was spread throughout… on multiple surfaces. She was pronounced dead at the scene at approximately 20 minutes later,” reported KTUU.
The FBI was notified of the incident at around 11pm and they sent 12 agents to investigate.
Information that came out later gave details about what happened that night. Two of Kenneth and Kristy’s daughters were in the cabin at the time that the couple argued. Kenneth told them to leave the room and they both went into an adjoining relatives’ cabin.
A few minutes later, the daughters heard their mom screaming from the cabin and tried to get to her but were told by their father ‘don’t come in here.’
They went to the connected balcony and saw their father straddling their mother on the bed while pounding her head with closed fists.
This case moved slowly. Kenneth first pleaded not guilty in August 2017. In February 2020, Kenneth he changed his mind and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. In June 2021, he was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release.
Kenneth had asked for a much charter 7 1/2 year sentence, citing bipolar disorder and brain abnormalities.
His attorneys said in a court filing he had brain abnormalities that a defense expert deemed consistent with injuries caused by playing contact sports.
This, combined with what was at the time an undiagnosed bipolar disorder and ‘a problematic combination of prescribed medication and alcohol resulted in an aberrant episode of violence,’ the filing states.
Kenneth played football, wrestled and boxed when he was younger and had a history of ‘testosterone supplementation,’ the filing stated.
Acting US Attorney Bryan Wilson of the District of Alaska said in a Justice Department release that the murder was ‘not a random act of violence but a chilling neglect for human life.’
‘While today’s sentence will not bring Kristy back to her family and friends, we hope it provides a sense of justice for this heinous crime and brings some closure to those who knew and cared about her,’ he said.
Kenneth’s attorneys said in court filings while his children hold him responsible, ‘they also understand that his impairments played a major factor in the events that occurred, and they have already lost one parent.’
Kenneth also spoke in court. He broke down in tears saying he loved his daughters and wife and describing Kristy as his ‘soul mate.’
He said he was sorry for murdering her and hoped over time he could be forgiven.
Kenneth did not spend much time in prison though. In July 2021, one month after his sentencing, he was found dead in his cell.
Kenneth Manzanares, 43, was found unresponsive in his cell at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau around 7 a.m. Wednesday and could not be revived, the Alaska Department of Corrections said.
I don’t think a cause of death has ever been made public for Kenneth – I suspect hanging.
Interestingly, Kenneth is listed in Kristy’s obituary –
Her infectious, beautiful smile and sweet, compassionate soul will forever be remembered by all who knew Kristy. She made everyone who came in contact with her feel important, special, and put a smile on their face. Because of that, she was adored by all, and we are all blessed to have had Kristy in our lives.
Kristy is survived by her three daughters Kalie, Kamryn and Kaiya; husband Kenneth Manzanares;
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF NEWLYWED GEORGE SMITH FROM A CRUISE SHIP
George Smith is an American man who went missing from a cruise ship while on his Honeymoon in 2005.
George (26) married his wife Jennifer Hagel eleven days before he disappeared – their ceremony was held in Rhode Island on June 25, 2005. Their honeymoon was a two week Mediterranean cruise, with stops in Greece, Turkey, and Italy. They boarded Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas on June 29. The ship sailed from Barcelona, Spain.
On July 4, 2005, the ship docked in Mykonos, Greece. George’s family have said that Greece was one of his favorite places.
The couple got back on board the ship and had dinner together that night. At around midnight that night, they went to the casino on the ship. There is CCTV footage of both of them in the casino.
The next morning, at around 7.30am on July 5, other passengers came across a big blood stain on a metal canopy on the ship. George was nowhere to be found. The blood was found on a canopy that was 22 feet, directly below George’s cabin.
Passengers have said they heard a thump around the time that George was last seen.
Jennifer had been found drunk and passed out in a hallway on the other side of the ship at around 4.30am. She has said she has no memory after leaving the casino.
As the ship was now in Turkish waters, Turkish police boarded the ship and interviewed the people who were the last to see George. Their names are Josh Askin and three Russian-American men: Rusty Kofman, Greg Rozenberg, and Zach Rozenberg. They said they had partied with George into the early morning hours.
According to the group, shortly after 4 a.m., they had brought George back to his cabin and while Josh went to the bathroom, the other guys had taken off George’s shoes and put a drunken George to bed. There is a photo of the cabin showing one of George’s shoes on the floor.
The men said that after they left George in his cabin, they all went to another cabin where they ordered room service. There are conflicting reports about if they actually did order room service though – George’s family and legal team say there is no record of the order.
A chair was found pushed up against the edge of the railing of the balcony in the Smith cabin.
A small amount of blood was also found on the bedsheets in the room. Some other passengers reported hearing an argument coming from the balcony of George’s cabin at around the time he was last seen.
On July 29, 2005, the FBI announced that they were investigating George’s disappearance.
Dateline did a segment on George’s disappearance and focused on the theory that his death was the result of a robbery.
There is also apparently a video that the FBI have in which the three Russian-Americans are seen and heard making callous remarks about George’s death and at the end Greg Rozenberg says “I told you I was gangsta.”
Jennifer was criticised and scrutinised for her conduct on the night that George disappeared. Both of them were drunk and many found it very convenient that she had no memory of what happened. Her theory is that George went overboard in an accidental fall, due to his intoxications. In June 2006, Jennifer accepted compensation set at $1.1 million from Royal Caribbean.
This settlement did not go through though. In 2008, his parents contested the cruise lines initial award of $1.1 million with a lawsuit; saying that their son’s earning capacity was greater than that. During the course of the lawsuit, George’s parents accused Jennifer of settling quickly to avoid embarrassing details of that night.
George’s parents also have stated that what they have spent investigating their son’s death far exceeds their portion of the settlement. The Smith’s portion of the new settlement is $300,000 while in the initial settlement they were given only $50,000. The total settlement figure was $1.3m.
I was looking up the FBI involvement in this case and came across an interesting part of their website – it’s called the Vault.
You can go on there and there is a 26 page document about George’s disappearance.
The FBI closed their investigation into George’s disappearance in 2015.
“We were told by the Connecticut FBI that there was not enough evidence to prove George had been murdered and that his death may have been the result of an accident,” George’s family wrote in a 2015 social media post.
“I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that my son was murdered on that cruise ship,” Maureen Smith, George’s mother, told CBS News’ 48 Hours.
They have also spoken about their anger that George’s belongings were eventually returned to Jennifer.
“The evidence will be given to a woman whose whereabouts are unknown when George was thrown overboard… and who has done everything in her power to stop us from finding out what happened to George on July 5, 2005,” the post reads.
WAS AMERICAN DAVID SNEDDON KIDNAPPED AND TAKEN TO NORTH KOREA?
American David Sneddon was 24 years old in 2004 when he went missing while vacationing in China. He was a BYU student (he was studying Mandarin) and was last seen in August 2004 in China’s Yunan Province. The dates that he was last seen vary – some reports say August 10 and others say August 14. He had originally traveled to China to take a summer class and to improve his Mandarin. He already spoke fluent Korean and was planning on becoming an international lawyer.
This info is from Newsweek:
Sneddon, then 24, was last seen on August 14, 2004, in a Korean cafe in Shangri-La, a city in the Yunnan province of China, near the Myanmar border. He had just finished a hike at the Tiger Leaping Gorge, and told the owner of the cafe that he was making his way back to Qiaotou to pick up his bags from a youth hostel and continue his journey through China.
He travelled for a while through China with a friend, George Bailey. The pair separated on August 9 as they had different travel plans.
George has said that David was a wonderful, adventurous, fun-loving and outgoing person. Throughout their staying in China, there had been no sign of danger. “We both felt very safe, we thought no Chinese would ever touch an American because there’d be trouble,” he said.
David was last in contact with his family on August 11. He had been in touch with them regularly and would write them a few emails each week. David had plans to meet his brother Michael in South Korea on August 26, and when he did not show up, his family alerted authorities.
Police went to the hostel where David had been staying. They found his backpack and his plane tickets still there. David had apparently only had a fanny pack on him when he was last seen – his family said he likely would have been carrying a toothbrush, the Book of Mormon and a travel guide/map.
There had been no movement on his bank accounts since early August.
David’s family travelled to China to search for him. They found a group of tourists who said a young “westerner” who had “studied Mandarin at university” joined them for about three hours in August, before striking out on his own.
A Korean woman who owned a café in the mountain region also said that she had seen David. The cafe owner said that she spoke with David in Korean.
The woman described David as having “meager funds.” After multiple visits to her shop, he reportedly told her, “Goodbye, I am leaving,” as he prepared to return home.”
Chinese authorities have said they believe David fell into the Jinsha River. When James Sneddon traveled to the area though, he said he found this hard to believe. The hiking trail that David had been following was more than one mile from the river, which made the Chinese scenario unlikely.
This info is from the Salt Lake Tribune and it gives some info about David’s alleged plans and the search:
When David Sneddon disappeared in 2004, he was believed to have fallen and died in Tiger Leaping Gorge, near Lijiang in Yunnan Province. He had left some extra gear with an innkeeper near Lijiang and was planning a two-day trek through the gorge, a rugged and treacherous trail popular with intrepid backpackers.
About 200 Chinese searchers combed the gorge carved by the River of Golden Sand between the 18,000-foot Dragon Snow and Jade Snow mountains. Two bodies were recovered, but neither turned out to be David Sneddon, according to a report his family received from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing about a month after the disappearance.
While David’s father was searching for him, he became suspicious that the Chinese government may have suspected that his son was involved with the underground railroad, which smuggled people out of North Korea, through safe houses in China and eventually to Laos or Cambodia.
David had a friend that had been asked in the past to leave China. Again, this info is from the Salt Lake Tribune:
One of David Sneddon’s former mission companions had stayed with him for a few days after the Chinese government asked the companion to leave the country, said Roy Sneddon, who added that the former mission companion had been writing a story about North Koreans who had fled their home country and been living on the Chinese border.
So it sounds like his family believe David may have been on the radar of both North Korea and China.
The search for David then continued on for many years. Over a decade later, in 2016,Yahoo News Japan reported that David had been spotted in North Korea, where he is believed to live. He reportedly works as an English teacher, and has a wife and two children.
Following that report, the US State Department announced that they would start searching for David in North Korea. A source told the Independent that David had been kidnapped by North Korean operatives, and worked as an English tutor for Kim Jong-un – who was heir to the country’s dictatorship at the time.
David’s family have said that they believed the Kim regime sought him out for his fluency in Korean. A man who was living in South Korea who married a North Korean defector, called the Sneddon’s to tell them that a man fitting David’s description had been seen in Pyongyang.
“The evidence indicates that there are still a lot of unanswered questions about David’s disappearance,” Representative Chris Stewart, who serves on the US House Intelligence Committee – said in 2016.
“David’s family deserves answers to those questions, and until we find those answers, I will continue urging the State Department to pursue all possible explanations for David’s disappearance.”
A North Korean foreign ministry spokesperson denied the abduction in October 2016. “This is just a plot hatched by the Obama group, destined to sink like the setting sun due to the total bankruptcy in its hostile policy toward the DPRK, to dramatize the non-existent “human rights issue” of the DPRK and tarnish its international image,” the statement read. “We flatly deny and categorically reject this far-fetched assertion as a swindle which does not deserve even a passing note,” it added.
Kathleen Sneddon, David’s mother spoke to the Salt Lake Tribune in 2016.
“We, as a family, are concerned of course about David,” Kathleen said. “But our hearts, our thoughts, our prayers go out to all the people of North Korea, who’ve been held in subjection, without freedoms, without adequate, normal essentials for living a pleasant life: food, clothing, housing. … We just feel all of North Korea needs to have something happen there, and we would hope that somehow David being released could help this.”
As of May 2022, David still remains missing. Media in his case has slowed right down. The most recent article that I can find is from June 2021.
The brother of an American student suspected to have been abducted to North Korea in 2004 said evidence exists that David Sneddon did not die in a hiking accident in Yunnan Province.
James Sneddon, speaking at an online symposium at the United Nations on North Korea’s alleged abductions of foreign nationals, said Tuesday that his brother spoke many times of a desire to come home after completing his studies at a university in Beijing.
THE LONELY DEATH OF ATSUMI YOSHIKUBO
Atsumi Yoshikubo was a 45 year old Japanese psychiatrist who travelled to Canada alone in 2014. She had travelled so that she could see the Northern Lights. Her home city in Japan was Uto.
The city of Yellowknife is a very popular tourist destination for Japanese travelers. There is a common folk belief that a child conceived under the Aurora Borealis will be blessed with good luck and health. 20% of the city’s total visitors come from Japan. Many of the cafes and restaurants in the city offer menus in both English and Japanese to account for this influx of tourists.
Atsumi arrived in Yellowknife on 17 October, 2014 and she checked into the Explorer Hotel. She didn’t seem to have researched her trip very thoroughly. She arrived in the off-season and found that many of the tourist attractions were closed for the season.
The snow fall in October and November in the area is light, which means that the cover is too thin for dog-sledding. It also makes the trails in the area swampy and hard to get through.
CCTV footage of Atsumi shopping at a souvenir shop on October 19, 2014. She was seen wearing a pink coat and pink hat. She was seen in the store twice on the same day. She bought a number of items, presumably souvenirs to take home.
The last known sighting of Atsumi was on October 22, 2014. She was seen on the CCTV of her hotel, leaving the building in the morning. She was wearing the same clothes on this day that she was seen wearing in the souvenir store, a few days earlier.
She was spotted by an RCMP police officer at around 11.30am on that day. She was seen hiking on the Ingraham Trail. The officer did not think anything of this sighting at the time and only realized later that this was Atsumi.
Three days after she left the hotel, staff finally entered her room after she failed to check out. Her luggage was neatly packed. A report was filed and it was discovered that Atsumi had never made her flight back home.
A large search was started for Atsumi. On November 4, the RCMP called off their search and said that they believed Atsumi may have travelled to the area to take her own life.
They also stated that she had taken ‘steps to avoid detection’ but never elaborated on what those steps were.
Atsumi was allegedly estranged from her family, but they said at the time that they doubted she wanted to take her life and pointed out that she had packed up her bags, as if she planned to return home.
A suicide note was also found in Japan, according to the National Post.
A suicide note had surfaced in Japan, in the possession of a woman friendly with Ms. Yoshikubo, according to Japanese media reports. Kenji Yoshikubo, the missing woman’s younger brother, acknowledged the note’s existence, although he said he had not read it, personally, and still believed he would see his sister again. Alive. Why else, the brother reasoned, would she have bought a round trip plane ticket to Canada — and jewellery from a gift shop?
The RCMP officer who saw Atsumi spoke about the sighting on the day she disappeared:
[A]s I drove past her[,] I thought it might not be the best idea for her being alone.” She had considered turning around and going back to offer help, but decided against it. “I thought, it was only 11:30 a.m., she’ll be OK … She looked like she was sightseeing and it was close to zero, it wasn’t freezing cold, and her pink coat was knee-length and she had on mitts and a hat—she was dressed for that temperature.
Media reports also included an interview from Simon Hatcher, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Ottawa. He spoke about possible motivations for Atsumi’s trip. ‘Most long wilderness sojourns are a form of temporary suicide, from which people return feeling better. “People who are suicidal can have this fantasy where they can have a temporary escape—a temporary suicide,” he told the National Post. “And maybe that way they will stand out, and somebody will come along and save them. Maybe this was some form of this woman testing fate.”
Many people questioned why Atsumi may have travelled so far, only to take her own life.
“Sometimes people romanticize about how they might control their death, and they can become fixated on a place,” the director of a Toronto suicide prevention centre told the Post. “Maybe this woman came to Canada to create some distance from her family, and to spare them from it.”
In September 2015, almost one year after she went missing, a hiker stumbled across Atsumi’s personal effects on the Ingraham Trail. Human remains were also found near the belongings. The remains were not confirmed to be Atsumi until April 2016. Only bone fragments were found, so no autopsy was conducted.
Along with the effects were human remains.
This was the statement made at the time about the state of the remains:
The release says RCMP conducted a search of the area and found “sparse fragments of human bone.” Police say the state of the “scant” remains made conducting an autopsy impossible and forensic testing was required to confirm the identity of the remains.
In April 2016 the RCMP confirmed they were, and announced that the case was closed. Since only bone fragments were left, they would not be able to perform an autopsy.