Murder of Thomas and Jackie Hawks

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Thomas and Jackie Hawks were a couple from Prescott, Arizona, United States, who were murdered in 2004. In April 2009, Skylar Preciosa Deleon and Jennifer Henderson were convicted of charges relating to their murders. Deleon was sentenced to death while Henderson was sentenced to two terms of life in prison without parole.

Two other people, John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Alonso Machain, were convicted separately of the killings. Kennedy was sentenced to death, and Machain accepted a plea bargain after testifying for the prosecution in the trials of Deleon, Henderson, and Kennedy. He was sentenced to 20 years and 4 months in prison.[1][2]


Thomas Hawks was a retired probation officer and bodybuilder. He and his second wife Jackie owned a 55-foot yacht, the Well Deserved, which they treated as their permanent home and on which they sailed for two years around the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California. In 2004, they decided to sell their yacht and set up home in Newport Harbor to be closer to their grandchild.[1] Jackie (née O'Neill) had helped raise Tom's children from his first marriage since adolescence. When the wife of Hawks' eldest son had expected their first child, Jackie treated the news as if it had been her own natural grandchild.[3]

Their advertisement of the sale of the yacht was answered in November by Skylar Deleon. The couple was initially cautious of Deleon, but they became more receptive when he brought his then-pregnant wife Jennifer and their other child to meet them.[4] The Hawks were last seen alive on the morning of November 15, 2004, heading out of the harbor. The yacht returned, but they did not.[1] Neither body has ever been recovered.[5]


Skylar Preciosa Deleon
John Julius Jacobson, Jr.

(1979-08-12) August 12, 1979 (age 41)
OccupationFormer actor
Criminal statusIncarcerated
Spouse(s)Jennifer Henderson
Conviction(s)First degree murder
Criminal penaltyDeath

Skylar Preciosa Deleon (born John Julius Jacobson, Jr.,[6][7] AKA Skylar Julius Deleon) is a convicted murderer of 3 people. Deleon claimed that he was a child actor that appeared in commercials and also claimed that at age 14 he appeared in the series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as an uncredited extra in the episode "Second Chance". Casting sheets for that episode show no extras named John Jacobsen appeared on the show. At age 20, he joined the United States Marine Corps, but he went on Unauthorized Absence (UA) 15 days later.[8] He was later given an other than honorable discharge.[8][9]

Others involved[edit]

  • Jennifer Lynn Henderson (formally Jennifer Deleon), wife of Skylar Deleon.[10]
  • Alonso Machain, former Seal Beach correctional officer who met Deleon while Deleon was serving time in prison for burglary
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Insane Crips gang member in Long Beach and former youth pastor, ex-convict for attempted murder, recruited the same day of the murder
  • Myron Sandora Gardner, Sr., former Insane Crips gang member and ex-convict for involuntary manslaughter, who met Deleon at work after Deleon's release from prison, declined to participate in the crime but introduced Deleon to Kennedy[11][12][13]


Police inquired into the couple's disappearance. On November 26, 2004, an attempt was made to access the Hawks' bank account from Mexico. The family was notified and filed a missing-persons report with the Carlsbad, California police department.[1]

On November 29, the police interviewed Skylar Deleon. He told them that he bought the boat from the Hawkses and showed them proof-of-purchase documents. He stated to police that the Hawkses left in their car with their money, denied being in their car, and named Alonso Machain as witness to the purchase. The reason that she bought the boat, she claimed, was that Deleon intended to launder money related to an armed burglary in 2002 for which she had been convicted.[14][5]

In March 2005, after initially fleeing to Mexico and then returning, Machain confessed to the crime. He was arrested in connection with the couple's disappearance along with Deleon and Deleon's wife Jennifer. Skylar Deleon initially maintained innocence, claiming that they were not present at the time and speculating that the Hawkses were killed over a drug deal gone bad.[5][15]


Authorities alleged that during a sea trial of the boat in Newport Beach Harbor a few days after meeting the Hawkses, Deleon and her accomplices — Alonso Machain and John Fitzgerald Kennedy — bound and gagged the couple and threw them overboard, tied to the yacht's anchor.[4][16] Deleon allegedly masterminded the plan to kill the couple for financial gain and enlisted Machain to help.[5][17][18]

Deleon's wife Jennifer was found guilty on two counts of first degree murder on November 17, 2006, after four hours of jury deliberation. In October 2007, Jennifer Deleon (now calling herself Jennifer Henderson, since her divorce from Skylar Deleon only a few months after the Hawks' murders) was sentenced to two life terms without the possibility of parole.[19] She is currently housed at Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, California.[20]

While awaiting trial in jail, Skylar Deleon was charged with soliciting another inmate to murder her cousin and abusive father. She was accused of killing John Jarvi, a resident of Anaheim, California who was found dead in Mexico in 2003. Deleon's father and cousin (who was charged as an accessory to the Jarvi murder) are considered "important witnesses" in both murder cases.[18] On March 13, 2008, Deleon partially severed her penis with a razor blade while being held in jail.[21] After receiving medical attention, she was returned to jail the following day.[22] In an interview with ABC's 20/20, Deleon indicated that she attempted to cut off her penis because she wanted to be a woman. Defense lawyers claimed that Deleon's need for money to finance a sex-change operation was the motivation for the Hawks' murders.[23][24][25] In 2019, Deleon’s gender was legally changed to female and Deleon’s name is now Skylar Preciosa Deleon.[26]

On September 22, 2008, jury selection began in the case against Skylar Deleon.[27] In a consolidated case, Deleon was jointly tried for the murders of Thomas and Jackie Hawks as well as the murder of John Jarvi. Despite Deleon's earlier protestations of innocence, once her trial began, Deleon's attorney conceded that Deleon had indeed committed all three murders. The attorney said that she had taken the case to trial only to argue to a jury that Deleon should not be sentenced to death.[28] On October 20, Deleon was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances for financial gain and multiple victims and on November 6, 2008, the jury rendered a death verdict.[29] Sentencing was originally scheduled for January 16, 2009,[30] but was then rescheduled to March 20 on request by Deleon's attorney.[31] On March 13, it was announced that sentencing would again be rescheduled, to April 10, so that the families of the victims could attend.[32] On April 10, 2009, Deleon was sentenced to death by Orange County Superior Court Judge Frank Fasel.[33] She is on death row at San Quentin State Prison.

On February 19, 2009, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was found guilty on two counts of first degree murder after fewer than three hours of jury deliberation.[34] He was sentenced to death on May 1, 2009.[35] Like Deleon, Kennedy is on death row at San Quentin State Prison.

Alonso Machain, after testifying against Deleon, Henderson, and Kennedy, pleaded guilty to two counts each of voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping, and robbery. On June 15, 2009, he was sentenced to 20 years, 4 months. He is first eligible for parole in September 2021. He is currently serving his sentence at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla, California.[20]

In March 2009, after spending four years incarcerated, Myron Gardner pleaded guilty to "accessory after the fact" and the murder charges against him were dropped.[36][37][38]

In the media[edit]

  • This case was investigated on TV by Aphrodite Jones in her Investigation Discovery documentary TV series True Crime with Aphrodite Jones (Season 1, episode 9), and was explored on the same network on two other programs: Wicked Attraction (episode "Calm Before the Storm") and Deadly Sins (episode "I'd Kill For A Sex Change").
  • This case is referred to in a segment of the "Caffeine-Induced Aneurysm" episode of Robot Chicken.
  • This case was investigated on TV on Oxygen on the TV show Snapped: Killer Couples, a spin-off of Snapped.
  • The 48 Hours episode "Dark Voyage" covers this crime.
  • The Demons in the City of Angels episode Child Actor Killer covers the case.
  • This case is also covered in the podcast "Killafornia Dreaming: True Crime Tales from the Golden State; Episode 14, The Tale of Lost at Sea" - Google Play Podcasts.
  • This case is briefly mentioned in the Podcast "Raised by TV" hosted by comedians Lauren Lapkus and Jon Gabrus in the episode "Mt. Crushmore".
  • This case is covered on the TV show Crime Watch Daily with Chris Hansen, Season 2, Episode 165, "The Final Voyage".
  • This case is mentioned in the podcast "My Favorite Murder" in the Episode 169, "This Old Sandwich".
  • This case was investigated on ABC 20/20 episode “Overboard”.

Further reading[edit]

  • Caitlin Rother (2011). Dead Reckoning. Kensington. ISBN 9780786022175.
  • Frank Mickadeit (2005-08-15). "Yacht murder case looks like true-crime sequel". Orange County Register Communications. Archived from the original on February 10, 2009.
  • Tina Dirmann (2008). Vanished at Sea. Macmillan. ISBN 9780312941970.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Christine Hanley (2008-10-08). "Defense in yacht killings says his client did it". Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ Larry Welborn (2009-06-15). "Final defendant in yacht-murder case pleads guilty". The Orange County Register. Archived from the original on 2009-06-20.
  3. ^ "48 Hours Video - -". CBS. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  4. ^ a b Hanley, Christine (2008-10-08). "Skylar Deleon goes on trial in killing of yacht owners". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-05-19.
  5. ^ a b c d Wagner, Dennis (2007-04-15). "Prescott couple took fatal voyage". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 2008-09-24.
  6. ^ Rackauckas, Tony (2006-07-26). "Long Beach man charged with soliciting the murder of his own father and another witness while in jail on two murder cases". Orange County District Attorney (press release). Archived from the original on 2009-02-10. Retrieved 2008-10-21.
  7. ^ "Skylar Deleon 'Power Ranger' Yacht Killing Case Underway". (International Business Times). 2008-10-08. Archived from the original on 2008-10-24. Retrieved 2008-10-21.
  8. ^ a b Jeff Gottlieb (2005-05-23). "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". Los Angeles Times. pp. B.1.
  9. ^ Hanley, Christine (2007-05-28). "'He did it. I know he did it,' man says of son". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 10, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-07.
  10. ^ "Defendant: Jennifer Deleon". Orange County Register. 2008-10-05. Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  11. ^ "Judge orders lethal injection in yacht-murder case". Orange County Register. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  12. ^ "Plot to kill a witness alleged". Daily Pilot. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  13. ^ "Defendant: Myron Gardner". Orange County Register. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  14. ^ Stuart Pfeifer & Jeff Gottlieb (2005-03-05). "3 Face Murder Charges in Disappearance of Boat Owners". Los Angeles Times. pp. B.1.
  15. ^ Ben Fox (2005-03-04). "Police arrest two more in deaths of Arizona couple off Newport Beach". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2009-05-11.
  16. ^ "'Power Ranger' faces death penalty in yacht killings". 2007-10-07. Archived from the original on November 8, 2008.
  17. ^ "Depths of Evil". November 2006. Archived from the original on 2013-02-04. Retrieved 2008-09-25.
  18. ^ a b Vane, Lauren (2006-08-04). "Deleon pleads not guilty to murder plot". Retrieved 2008-09-25.
  19. ^ "California Mother Convicted in Plot to Kill Couple for Yacht Sentenced to Life Terms". Fox News. 2007-10-06. Retrieved 2008-09-24.
  20. ^ a b "State of California Inmate Locator". California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  21. ^ "Man awaiting trial tries to 'saw off' his penis". Long Beach Press Telegram. July 2008. Archived from the original on October 10, 2008. Retrieved July 10, 2008.
  22. ^ Reyes, David (2008-07-12). "Accused killer attempts to sever own penis in O.C. jail". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-09-24.
  23. ^ "Power Ranger Skylar DeLeon claims he murdered for a sex change operation". The Inquisitr News. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  24. ^ Jim Avila, Greg Fisher, Christina Caron, and Kimi Culpjim Avila via 20/20 (6 February 2009). "Yacht Murderer Wanted Sexual Reassignment Surgery". ABC News. Retrieved 9 September 2015.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  25. ^ Anna Glezer, MD, Dale E. McNiel, and Renée L. Binder, MD (2013). "Transgendered and Incarcerated: A Review of the Literature, Current Policies and Laws, and Ethics" (PDF). Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. Retrieved September 9, 2015.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  26. ^ Choiniere, Alyssa (2020-01-17). "Skylar Deleon Now: Where Is the Yacht Murderer Today in 2020?". Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  27. ^ Welborn, Larry (2008-09-22). "Jury selection under way in yacht murder case". Orange County Register. Archived from the original on 2008-10-07. Retrieved 2008-09-24.
  28. ^ "Ex-actor guilty of yacht killings, defense says". 2008-10-08. Archived from the original on October 24, 2008.
  29. ^ Tran, My-Thuan (2008-11-06). "Death sentence in murder of yacht owners". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
  30. ^ "Jury recommends death penalty in yacht killings". November 6, 2008. Archived from the original on November 10, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
  31. ^ Serna, Joseph (January 16, 2009). "Sentencing delayed for area couple's killer". Retrieved 2009-01-24.
  32. ^ Serna, Joseph (March 13, 2009). "Deleon to wait for his fate". Retrieved 2009-03-27.
  33. ^ "Skylar Deleon gets death sentence in Newport Beach yacht murders". April 10, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  34. ^ Welborn, Larry. "3rd man convicted in murders of couple on yacht". The Orange County Register. Digital First Media. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  35. ^ Serna, Joseph. "Second killer given death". Daily Pilot. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  36. ^ "Man Sentenced In Drowning Of Yacht Owners". CBS News. 11 April 2009. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  37. ^ "Murdered couple's yacht to be put up for sale". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  38. ^ "Man is freed in plea deal". Daily Pilot. Retrieved 9 September 2015.

External links[edit]