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Deleon guilty of killing couple at sea

Tom and Jackie Hawks thought he wanted to purchase their yacht.

October 21, 2008|Christine Hanley

With his conviction a foregone conclusion, Skylar Deleon did not flinch Monday when he was found guilty of killing Tom and Jackie Hawks in a plot to steal their yacht and plunder their bank accounts.

"He knew that was going to happen," his attorney, Gary Pohlson, told reporters moments after an Orange County jury, which had deliberated just two hours, found Deleon guilty of killing the Hawkses and Jon Peter Jarvi, an Anaheim man found dead in Mexico after Deleon swindled him out of $50,000.

All sides agree that the real deliberations for the same five-man, seven-woman jury start Wednesday, when they return to court to begin determining whether Deleon should die for the three murders.

"Let's get on with the penalty phase," Ryan Hawks, one of the Hawkses' sons, said outside the courtroom. He and other family members and friends of the couple support the death penalty for Deleon and will be testifying during the next stage, as will Jarvi's family.

Pohlson had conceded during his opening statement that Deleon was guilty. But he has maintained that Deleon was not the evil, manipulative genius prosecutors have made him out to be, and has been seeking all along to spare Deleon a death sentence.

Deleon will not testify during the penalty phase, Pohlson said. But several of his relatives and doctors will take the stand to show that Deleon was emotionally and physically abused by his father, a bumper-sticker salesman who traveled the country in a converted mail truck. He died earlier this year.

"We have quite a lineup," Pohlson said of his witnesses. "He's had a horrible life."

Deleon is the second defendant tried in the Hawkses' deaths and the first to face a potential death sentence.

Two years ago, lead prosecutor Matt Murphy won the conviction of Deleon's wife, Jennifer. She is serving two consecutive life terms without possibility of parole after Murphy portrayed her as a coldhearted, money-hungry plotter in league with her husband, even using their 9-month-old baby to gain the Hawkses' trust.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, described by prosecutors as the "brawn" behind the murder plot, is awaiting trial and also faces the death penalty if convicted.

Alonso Machain is awaiting sentencing. He admitted being on board the yacht when the Hawkses were killed, and he was instrumental in helping the government figure out what happened to them.

The couple were last seen in November 2004, leaving Newport Harbor aboard their 55-foot yacht, Well Deserved. Their disappearance drew international headlines and sent a wave of fear through boating communities around the world.

Tom Hawks, 57, was a retired probation officer and firefighter; his wife, 10 years younger, was a homemaker who had helped raise his two boys from an earlier marriage.

The couple spent nearly two years plying the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean before deciding to sell the boat and move closer to their first grandchild in Arizona.

That's when they met Deleon.

Thinking he was a serious buyer, the couple agreed to take him and two pals, Kennedy and Machain, out for what they thought was a sea trial.

They headed out of the harbor the morning of Nov. 15, 2004. Though the boat returned, Tom and Jackie Hawks did not.

At the time, Deleon was out of work and facing mounting debt. He also had a second child on the way. He was living with his wife and their first child in a converted garage attached to her parents' home in a working-class section of Long Beach.

Deleon, his wife and the other co-defendants insisted for weeks that they had bought the boat outright and last saw the Hawkses alive and well in Newport Beach.

But Machain eventually cracked, and he provided the first eyewitness account of what happened to the couple, whose bodies have never been found.

--

Hanley is a Times staff writer.

christine.hanley@latimes.com

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