A sailor aboard a large cargo ship off the coast of California has pleaded guilty in federal court to fatally injuring another crew member and said he feared for his life.
Michael Dequito Monegro, 43, of the Philippines, stabbed his supervisor 17 times in the face and body with a pair of knives and then surrendered to the ship‘s captain when it was apparent the victim was dead, according to a federal affidavit.
The crime happened on September 20, 2020 after a two-week trip from Shanghai to Los Angeles. Monegro pleaded guilty in LA on Monday.
The incident brought the MSC Ravenna in jeopardy as it took the captain and crew away from important duties at a point where the ship was 80 miles from the Port of Los Angeles, the affidavit said.
“An emergency on board a large ship normally puts a strain on the mental capacity of the captain, officers and crew members,” the affidavit reads. “An onboard emergency causes mental fatigue and is a source of stress and distraction for everyone involved. Such strains are exacerbated when officers and crew members fear that the master may lose control of the ship.”
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Several crew members told how Monegro Manolito confronted Santillan and said, “You are the one who destroyed my family.” Witnesses saw Monegro stab Santillan and throw him to the ground.
Monegro then pulled a second knife out of his jumpsuit and unsheathed it with his teeth. He began stabbing Santillan with both knives, one in each hand, the affidavit said.
Crew members threw trash cans at Monegro to stop the attack, but were unsuccessful. They heard Santillan say, “What’s the matter, Michael? I hope the Lord forgives you. I’m dead, Michael.”
The pair were scheduled to disembark from LA and return to the Philippines, where Monegro said he feared someone would kill him. Crew members on cargo ships typically sign multi-month contracts and rarely disembark.
Monegro was taken into custody by the captain and locked in a cabin guarded by crew members. The ship docked in LA, where the coroner boarded and retrieved Santillan’s body. A week later, FBI agents arrested Monegro, who remained locked in the cubicle, the affidavit said.
The crew was traumatized by the event.
“I saw a police officer pull a knife to open a bag on board the ship,” an FBI agent wrote in the affidavit. “The captain present seemed shaken by the sight of the exposed knife and asked that it be cleared away immediately.”
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Monegro was initially charged with second-degree murder and committing an act of violence against a person on board a ship likely to endanger safe navigation. He pleaded guilty to the second count in an agreement with the US Attorney’s Office and will be sentenced on September 12. He faces a life sentence.