The attorney for a man accused of murdering a couple by throwing them off their yacht told an Orange County jury on Tuesday his client is guilty of those two killings and a third, but shouldn't face the death penalty.
Defense attorney Gary Pohlson used his opening statement Tuesday to say he is only interested in saving the life of 29-year-old Skylar Deleon when the trial reaches the penalty phase.
"I am going to concede that Skylar Deleon is guilty of the charges," Pohlson said Tuesday.
The concession is not the same as a guilty plea, however, and Pohlson says he will dispute some details of the prosecution case.
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Deleon is accused of murdering the Arizona couple, Tom and Jackie Hawks, by throwing them into the ocean tied to an anchor in 2004. He is also accused of stealing $50,000 from a man and murdering him in 2003.
In his opening statement, Orange County Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy told the jury that a man who Deleon asked to help him commit murder asked him how he planned to get away with it.
"'Hey man, no body, no murder,"' Deleon told the friend, Adam Rohrig, according to the prosecutor.
In addition to the killings of the Hawks, who disappeared on Nov. 15, 2004, and whose bodies have never been found, Deleon is accused of murdering 45-year-old John Jarvi of Anaheim on Dec. 27, 2003.
Jarvi also was conned, prosecutors said. He withdrew $50,000 for what he told his mother would be a "no-lose" business deal and was later found with his throat slit next to a roadway in Ensenada, Mexico.
Jarvi and Deleon met in jail in Seal Beach, and Jarvi withdrew the money shortly after he was released.
The two cases ran on separate tracks until a judge in September agreed to consolidate them into one trial. Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Deleon if he is convicted.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Frank Fasel also agreed to sever the trial of Deleon, a Long Beach resident, from that of John F. Kennedy, 43, also of Long Beach, who is accused of helping Deleon overpower the Hawkses and force them to sign transfer-of-title documents.
The vessel was 55 miles out to sea, where the water is 4,000 feet deep, when Tom and Jackie Hawks were chained to an anchor while alive and tossed into the sea, according to previously testimony from a third man on the yacht, Alonso Machain, 25, of Pico Rivera.
Tom Hawks, 57, a retired probation officer, and his 47-year-old wife had lived aboard the yacht for several years. But the two, formerly of Prescott, Ariz., wanted to sell the boat so they could be near their first grandchild, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy.
After relatives reported the couple missing, Deleon and his then wife, Jennifer Henderson, also of Long Beach, insisted the two drove off after cash traded hands.
Henderson was convicted for her alleged role in the murders. She brought the couple's baby along when the sale of the boat was initially discussed in order to put the Hawkses at ease, prosecutors say. She also helped Deleon bleach out portions the boat after the slayings, Murphy alleges.
Henderson was sentenced last October to life in prison without parole.
Kennedy, who is not charged in the Jarvi slaying, will be tried separately. Prosecutors will also seek the death penalty against him if he is convicted.
The third man on the boat, Machain, served as a link between the two cases, according to earlier testimony in the case.
On the day Jarvi was killed, Deleon was still in the Seal Beach City Jail, where Machain was a jailer, serving a sentence that allowed him to leave on weekdays to go to a job and return at night.
Prosecutors said Deleon did not have a job and that he returned to the jail late the day Jarvi was killed, but Machain, who worked for a company that ran a private lockup inside the jail, let Deleon in without penalty.
Machain cooperated with authorities during the investigation and is expected to testify at Deleon's trial, prosecutors said.
Facing trial separately is Myron Gardner Sr., 33, who allegedly recruited Kennedy to help kill the couple.
Murphy has alleged that Deleon tried to solicit people to kill at least three witness against him.
Charges against Deleon include two counts of murder and the special circumstance allegation of multiple murder and murder for financial gain. He is also charged with murder and the special circumstance of murder for financial gain in connection with the Jarvi slaying.
Deleon as a youngster appeared in a non-speaking role in several episodes of the "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers" television series.