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What Happened to Tom and Jackie Hawks?

A couple sold their yacht in November and drove off, says the supposed buyer -- and murder suspect. They haven't been seen since.

May 23, 2005|Jeff Gottlieb | Times Staff Writer

Boating had long been Tom's passion. Growing up on a ranch in Chino, his family would take their trawler to Catalina. As an adult, Tom always had a powerboat, and every other weekend, Tom, Jackie and the boys would tow it to a local lake. Vacations meant more boat trips.

All the while Tom and Jackie were saving to buy something like the Well Deserved, going to boat shows and doing research. Their goal was to cruise around Mexico. "They had been planning this for years and years and years," Schutz said.

After Tom retired, the Hawkses moved into the Well Deserved, took it on short trips to learn its quirks and spent about $50,000 on improvements.

The Hawkses pulled out of Long Beach in October 2002. They cruised down the coast of Baja California, around Cabo San Lucas and into the Sea of Cortez, stopping in Baja and the Mexican mainland.

"The sea was calling us, and we couldn't wait any longer," Tom told Latitudes & Attitudes in an article about the Well Deserved in the December 2003 issue. "Life is just too short to put things off, and one cannot discover new oceans unless they have the courage to lose sight of the shore."

For the next 1 1/2 years, they e-mailed friends and family about their adventures -- diving for clams and scallops, swimming with whale sharks and spending Christmas with a Mexican family.

"We are so happy that we are finally in the Sea of Cortez," they wrote."This is what we have been waiting for. The weather is wonderful, the sea is like a lake....We just had a whale surface beside us, wow!"

If Tom and Jackie Hawks had learned anything while cruising the Mexican coast, it was that maintaining their 55-foot yacht was backbreaking and expensive. They decided to sell the Well Deserved, buy a smaller boat and maybe some property in Mexico and return to Arizona so they could dote on their newly born first grandchild.

The Well Deserved arrived in Newport Harbor on June 23, 2004.

*

Skylar Deleon was also a man with big dreams; they just went nowhere. He was going to buy a boat so he could teach scuba diving or use it as a charter for fishing trips. Another time he was going to start a business cleaning boat hulls. There were plans to go to nursing school, but he never carried through.

He told people he had been a child actor, but those stories were more fantasy than fact. He convinced the Hawkses that he had starred in the "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers" show on TV in the early 1990s. An ABC Cable Group spokeswoman said Jon Liberty, a name that one of Deleon's relatives said Deleon used, was a nonspeaking extra on two shows in 1993.

And for all his talk of paying $400,000 for the Well Deserved, Deleon and his wife were living in her parents' garage in a modest Long Beach neighborhood. His name growing up in Huntington Beach wasn't even Skylar Deleon. It was John Julius Jacobson.

Deleon's parents split up before he was 5. His father was sentenced to three years in federal prison for selling cocaine when Deleon was nine or 10. While his father was imprisoned, he lived with his stepmother. His mother, according to relatives, didn't have much to do with his life.

"I'm the only mom he knows," Lisa Wildin said.

Deleon squeaked through high school and enlisted in the Marines about 1 1/2 years later, in November 1999. He went AWOL and received a less-than-honorable discharge, according to his family. He served just 15 months, according to the Marine Corps, which would not say what discharge he received.

While in the service, he cut off contact with relatives but then suddenly showed up a couple of years later with a pregnant wife and a new name. He was living with his in-laws a few miles away.

While the Hawkses were having the time of their lives cruising Mexico, Deleon was having problems staying out of trouble. He got a job as an appraisal contact at mortgage lender Ditech. But on Dec. 9, 2002, he was arrested with two other Ditech employees burglarizing the Anaheim home of a co-worker. He was carrying a loaded gun and plastic handcuffs, authorities said.

Deleon pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in jail and three years' probation, and ordered to pay $200 restitution.

A judge allowed him to serve his time in the work-release program at Seal Beach City Jail, in which Deleon was allowed to hold a job during the day and return to jail at night. Deleon paid $70 a day for the program, around $2,000 a month, according to John Forren, chief executive of Correctional Systems Inc., which runs the jail.

It is not clear how Deleon managed to get the money to pay for the program.

Since his arrest, Deleon has become a suspect in an unrelated slaying that occurred while he was in the work-release program. Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Matt Murphy said in court in March that the unnamed victim's throat was slashed Dec. 27, 2003, 10 months before the Hawkses were presumed killed. Sources say the killing took place in Mexico.

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