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Gang member convicted in Newport Beach yacht killings

A Long Beach man is the third person found guilty in the 2004 killings of Thomas and Jackie Hawks. The couple were tied to the anchor of their boat and thrown overboard.

February 20, 2009|Susannah Rosenblatt

A Long Beach gang member was found guilty Thursday in the murder of a husband and wife who were tied to the anchor of their yacht and thrown into the ocean off the Newport Beach coastline.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 43, was convicted in the 2004 killings-for-profit of Thomas and Jackie Hawks, who had decided to sell their Newport Beach-based boat and give up a life of high-seas adventure so they could spend time with their new grandchild.

Orange County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Kennedy, who has a prior strike for a 1988 attempted murder. Kennedy, tried in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, is the third person convicted in connection with the Hawks' deaths.

Kennedy accompanied mastermind Skylar Deleon and alleged accomplice Alonso Machain onto the Hawks' 55-foot-long luxury yacht Well Deserved, with Kennedy posing as Deleon's accountant during a purported test drive of the $440,000 boat. While at sea, Kennedy helped overpower the retired Arizona couple and forced them to sign papers transferring the boat's title.

As Jackie Hawks begged for her life, prosecutors said, the men tied the couple to the yacht's anchor and tossed them overboard, alive.

A jury recommended the death penalty for Deleon, 29, in November, and Deleon's ex-wife, Jennifer Deleon, 27, of Long Beach, was sentenced to life in prison in 2007. Two other suspects face trial for murder, Myron Gardner, 45, of Long Beach and Machain, 25, of Pico Rivera.

The jury in Kennedy's case will hear opening statements beginning Monday in the penalty phase of his trial.

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susannah.rosenblatt@latimes.com

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