'Yacht' Killer Was Father's Slave, Defense Says

A California man convicted of chaining an Arizona couple to the anchor of their yacht and throwing them overboard to their deaths was the victim of malevolent abuse, himself, his attorney told jurors during the penalty phase of a high-profile murder trial.

Skylar Deleon was sexually abused, beaten and tortured by his late father, John Julius Jacobson Sr., according to attorney Gary Pohlson. Jacobson recently died from AIDS, reportedly.

Deleon, 29, was found guilty last Monday of murdering Thomas and Jackie Hawks, with several accomplices, after he posed as a potential buyer for their yacht. He was also convicted in the 2003 murder of John Jarvi. Deleon reportedly baited Jarvi into traveling to Mexico with him to complete an easy-money business deal, but instead, slit the 45-year-old's throat, robbed him of $50,000 and left the body near a Mexican highway.

Pohlson, who admitted Deleon's guilt in the murders at the start of the trial, is attempting to convince the jury to spare his client from lethal injection.

In his opening statement, Pohlson said Deleon was the victim of a "brutal, brutal" upbringing. Pohlson said Deleon was made to "sleep naked" with his father and was essentially "John's slave."

Both Deleon's stepmother, Lisa Wildin, and his half sister, Stephanie Jacobson, testified to Jacobson's abusive nature.

Wildin said that Deleon was regularly beaten by his father if "he got a pimple" or if he "didn't have his hair combed right."

Stephanie Jacobson, 21, said that her father was "an awful person" and even though he was abusive to everyone in the family, "Skylar got the wrath of it all," including multiple occasions in which Jacobson shoved toothpicks under Deleon's fingernails.

Prosecutors, seeking the death penalty for Deleon, rested their case last week on an emotional note by playing a 20-minute home video of Tom and Jackie Hawks traveling on their beloved yacht, the Well Deserved.

Before the video, Jackie Hawks' mother, Gayle O'Neill, choked up on the witness stand as she called her daughter "a wonderful person, loving, caring."

"She would do anything for anybody," she said. "I think of them in the morning when I wake up and at night before I go to bed." Witnesses, including one of Deleon's alleged accomplices, testified that Thomas and Jackie Hawks were blindfolded, beaten, shackled to the anchor of the yacht, and thrown overboard.

The jury must decide whether Deleon should get the death penalty or life in prison.

'Yanked' to Their Deaths

In gut-wrenching detail, alleged accomplice Alonso Machain, a cooperating witness for the prosecution, told jurors last week that he, Deleon and a third man overpowered the couple, handcuffed them to the anchor and sent them hurtling to their deaths.

"They were basically yanked -- yanked into the ocean,'' Machain told Orange County jurors, as tears welled up in the eyes of the Hawks's friends and family in the courtroom gallery.

Deleon and the other men then turned the boat around and began an hour-long trip back to the shore, according to testimony. One cracked open a beer and grabbed a fishing pole and "started fishing,'' Machain said.

Jennifer Deleon, Skylar Deleon's former wife, was tried and convicted for murdering Tom and Jackie Hawks and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in a separate 2006 trial.

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