A sailor aboard a large cargo ship off the coast of has pleaded guilty in federal court to the fatal stabbing another crew member, saying he feared for his life.

Michael Dequito Monegro, 43, of the Philippines, stabbed his supervisor 17 times in the face and body using a pair of knives and then surrendered to the ship’s captain when it was apparent that the victim was dead, according to a federal affidavit.

The crime occurred Sept. 20, 2020, after a two-week voyage from Shanghai to Los Angeles. Monegro pleaded guilty Monday in LA.

The incident placed the MSC Ravenna in jeopardy, as it took the captain and crew away from crucial duties at a point in which the ship was 80 miles away from the Port of Los Angeles, the affidavit said.

“An emergency aboard a large vessel typically strains the mental capacity of the Captain, officers, and crewmembers,” the affidavit reads. “An onboard emergency causes mental fatigue and is a source of stress and distraction for all involved. Such stresses are exacerbated when officers and crewmembers fear that the Captain may lose control of the vessel.”


Several crew members recounted seeing Monegro confront Manolito Santillan, saying, “You are the one who destroyed my family.” The witnesses saw Monegro stab Santillan, knocking him to the ground.

Monegro then pulled a second knife from his coveralls 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 is happening, Michael? I hope the Lord forgives you. I’m dead, Michael.”

The pair had been scheduled to disembark from LA and return home to the Philippines, where Monegro said he feared someone was going to kill him. Cargo ship crew members typically sign contracts lasting several months 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 cabin, the affidavit said.

The crew was traumatized by the event.

“I witnessed a law enforcement agent pull out a knife to open a bag onboard the ship,” an FBI agent wrote in the affidavit. “The Captain, who was present, appeared to be shaken by the sight of the exposed knife and asked that it be put away immediately.”


Monegro was initially charged with second-degree murder and committing an act of violence against a person aboard a ship, likely to endanger safe navigation. He pleaded guilty to the second charge in an agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and will be sentenced Sept. 12. He faces a maximum of life in prison.