Man Sentenced to Death for Throwing Couple Off Yacht

Calling the crimes "cold and vicious," a judge Friday sentenced a Long Beach man to death for murdering three people, including a couple who were tied to an anchor and thrown overboard in a plot to steal their yacht.

Jurors recommended the death penalty on Nov. 6 for Skylar Deleon, who masterminded the slayings of Thomas Hawks, 57, and Jackie Hawks, 47, who were trying to sell their boat -- the Well Deserved -- when they took Deleon and two other men out for a trial run on Nov. 15, 2004.

Deleon, 29, was convicted Oct. 20 of killing the Hawkses. The bodies of the former Prescott, Ariz., couple have never been recovered.

The same panel convicted Deleon of slashing the throat of Anaheim resident Jon Jarvi, 45, who had turned over $50,000 to Deleon in November 2003 for what was to be a no-lose deal. His body was found near a road outside of Ensenada, Mexico.

In denying a defense motion to reduce the sentence to life in prison without parole, Orange County Superior Court Judge Frank Fasel made a number of findings, including that "this cold and vicious murder was committed for financial gain."

Murder for financial gain was one of two special circumstance allegations -- the other was multiple murder -- that made Deleon eligible for the death penalty.

Fasel said he had considered both aggravating and mitigating factors in reaching his decision. "However, the horrors of these three murders themselves are more aggravating," he said.

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"The mental anguish and torment these three people must have experienced while bound and in anticipation of their fate warrants death instead of life without parole."

Fasel also imposed several finds and restitution orders, including $55,500 for Betty Jarvi, the mother of Jon Jarvi.

Prosecutors said Tom and Jackie Hawks had lived about three years on their 55-foot trawler, traveling up and down the Mexican coast, until deciding to sell it when his son and daughter-in-law had a baby. The couple wanted to be closer to their new grandson.

Tom Hawks, a retired probation officer who decided to sell the boat without a broker, took out ads and Deleon responded.

Deleon, who as a child actor had a non-speaking role in several episodes of the "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers" television series, came across as a man who, despite his young age, had the wherewithal to pay the more than $400,000 the Hawkses were asking, prosecutors said.

To further put the Hawkses at ease, Deleon brought his pregnant then-wife, Jennifer, and their 18-month-old daughter for a look at the boat, and asked the owners to arrange a test run on the open sea, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy.

According to evidence presented at trial, including the testimony of one of his accomplices, Deleon was accompanied by Alonso Machain and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was introduced as an accountant but is a member of a Long Beach street gang.

Machain testified that he stayed with Jackie Hawks while Kennedy and Deleon overpowered her husband, forced both to sign transfer and power of attorney documents, then brought them both on the deck. They were tied back-to-back to an anchor and thrown overboard.

On the way back, the three divided $3,600 that was on the boat and Kennedy -- who was convicted of first-degree murder in the slayings of the Hawkses and also faces the death penalty -- fished on the way back to Newport Beach, prosecutors said.

Jim Hawks, a retired police chief, said he will never get over the death of his brother.

"I'll spend the rest of my life dealing with grief and spend the rest of my life dealing with the anger and hatred toward the defendant," he said.

Ryan Hawks, son of Tom Hawks and stepson of Jackie Hawks, said his family's values have taken on new meaning for him.

"I know my parents, they believed in the justice system," he said. "I abide by it more than ever. I embrace it."

Deleon, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit with his wrists chained to a set of waist chains, declined to make a statement.

In his statement to the judge, Jeff Jarvi said the way his brother and the Hawkses died makes him wake up at night. He imagines his brother, "crying, crawling on the desert floor to a highway, remembering that last face (he) saw."

"It doesn't go away," Jarvi said. "It continues like a roller-coaster that never ends."

During his client's trial, defense attorney Gary Pohlson told jurors upfront that Deleon was guilty, although the seven-woman, five-man panel was still called upon to deliver verdicts on the charges.

Pohlson had hoped to persuade the jury to chose the alternate punishment of life in prison without parole, the same sentence that Deleon's former wife, who has gone back to using her maiden name, Jennifer Henderson, is serving. She was sentenced to two life-without-parole sentences for her role in the conspiracy.

Deleon and Henderson's young children are being raised by her parents.

During his statement to the court, Ryan Hawks indicated that Deleon would be denied visitation with his children, who are now 4 and 5 years old.

Murphy said outside the courtroom that no such order is in effect, but that the grandparents agree. "I don't think the Hendersons will ever let that (visitation) happen," he said.

During the penalty phase of trial, Pohlson argued that Deleon was not only physically and emotionally abused by his father, but so criminally indoctrinated by the man -- who had served a federal prison term for drug dealing -- that he turned to him for help in luring the Hawkses out to sea.

But jurors said that argument was not enough the return the less severe verdict.

A May 1 sentencing date is set for Kennedy, 43. He was not charged in the Jarvi slaying.

Two others were charged in the conspiracy. Myron Gardner, 45, of Long Beach, who solicited Kennedy to take part in the plot, pleaded guilty in March to being an accessory after the fact and was sentenced to 365 days in jail, which he has served.

Machain, who testified against Deleon, is due back in court in May. Murphy said he expected Machain, 25, of Pico Rivera, to be sentenced to about 20 years in prison, even with his cooperation, because he played an active role in the crime.

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