Couple in Alaska cruise ship murder seemed like "perfect American family"

Kristy Manzanares

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A Utah couple was celebrating their wedding anniversary aboard an Alaska cruise when the husband was found covered in blood next to his wife's lifeless body, a frenzy of violence that a neighbor called completely out of character. 

Dana Nicholls told the Associated Press on Friday that he has lived near Kristy and Kenneth Manzanares, both 39, for about 10 years and they appeared to be the perfect family. The couple, who have three daughters, booked the weeklong cruise to celebrate the milestone in their marriage, he said. 

Friends told CBS News' Jamie Yuccas that the couple were high school sweethearts and had been married more than 20 years.    

Kristy Manzanares was found dead in a blood-splattered cabin Tuesday night. Her husband has been charged with murder after he was discovered with blood on his hands and clothes, and with blood spread throughout the cabin on the Princess Cruises ship, according to a criminal complaint. 

Members of Kristy Manzanares' family said they were "devastated" by their loss. A statement from loved ones said Manzanares was "a devoted mother, daughter, sister and friend."

Even in hindsight, there was never any warning signs, no police at their home, Nicholls said. 

"Everybody thinks that there's a big path that leads to something like this -- and absolutely nothing. Just absolutely nothing," Nicholls said in a phone interview from Santa Clara, Utah. 

The FBI said a man and other people went into the couple's room on the ship before medical workers and security officers arrived and saw Kristy on the floor covered in blood, according to court documents. She had a severe head wound, but the agency has not revealed other details about her death. 

The man asked Kenneth Manzanares what happened, and the suspect said, "She would not stop laughing at me," according to an FBI criminal complaint. Manzanares then grabbed his wife's body and tried to drag her to the balcony, but the man stopped him, the agency said. A security officer handcuffed Manzanares in a nearby cabin. 

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Kristy Manzanares

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Nicholls has set up an online fundraising page for the couple's three daughters. Like Kristy Manzanares, Nicholls works in real estate. Kenneth Manzanares works in auto sales and insurance, Nicholls said. 

Nicolls said his goal is to help the couple's daughters with whatever they may need, including funeral expenses. He said two of them are teenagers and one is a young adult. 

"Their children are like my children," he said. "They're part of the family." 

He also said he does not want the world to see Kenneth as a monster. 

"He was not a bad person any little bit, as far as we know," Nicolls said. "Everybody has probably issues behind closed doors that nobody knows about, but these people were the perfect American family."