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A southern Utah woman beaten to death on an Alaskan cruise ship during an apparent dispute with her husband was kind and optimistic, according to a family statement.

Kristy Manzanares, 39, of Santa Clara, was on a cruise with her husband of 17 years and their three daughters when she was found murdered in her cabin on Tuesday.

"We are devastated over the loss of Kristy. She is the light of our lives — a devoted mother, daughter, sister and friend. 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," according to the statement, which was forwarded to news media by family spokesperson Miranda Barnard.

Barnard, a life-long friend of Kristy Manzanares, said Saturday in an email, "Kristy and her family were on the cruise as part of a family vacation trip with other extended family members." She added that the victim's daughters, who range in age from 13 to 22 years old, are back in Utah and staying with family members.

The couple were married in August 1999, Barnard said, adding that family members did not consider the cruise a wedding anniversary trip, as was reported by a neighbor to wire services.

Kristy Manzaneres' husband, Kenneth Ray Manzanares, 39, was charged with murder in federal court in Alaska on Wednesday.

Barnard said she was unaware of any marital problems between the couple, or what might have sparked the fatal attack.

The Princess Cruises ship, with 3,400 passengers and 1,100 crew members, was diverted to Juneau after Kristy Manzanares was found on the floor of the couple's cabin suffering from what charges describe as "a severe head wound."

Medical and security personnel found a grisly scene on Tuesday night. There was "blood spread throughout the room on multiple surfaces," and on the hands and clothing of Kenneth Manzanares, according to charging documents.

A witness told FBI investigators that when he entered the room and asked what had happened, Manzanares replied, "She would not stop laughing at me."

Prosecutors say Manzanares attempted to drag his wife's body toward the cabin's balcony, but the same witness pulled her back into the cabin as security officers arrived.

Later, after being handcuffed by FBI agents in Juneau, Manzanares allegedly said, "My life is over.'"

A spokeswoman for Santa Clara-Ivins police told The Tribune on Thursday that there were no records of officers responding to the Manzanares home.

At the time of the slaying, the ship was roughly mid-way through its week-long, round trip excursion to Alaska, having sailed out of Seattle on Sunday.

Cruise ship passengers told CBS News that a "murder mystery" theme dinner was taking place at the time of the alleged homicide and some passengers initially thought it was a hoax.

Kristy Manzanares was a real estate agent for a St. George company. The St. George Board of Realtors set up an account to help support her children and fund her memorial service. Donations can be made at Zions Bank under "Kristy Hunt Manzanares donation."

Donations can also be made at a GoFundMe account titled "Fund for the Manzanares Girls."

Barnard said Kenneth Manzanares worked in the insurance industry.

Twitter: @tiffany_mf