A Moving Love Story, Drowned by Greed

Court testimony recounts terrifying final hours of Tom and Jackie Hawks' lives.

October 16, 2008, 8:35 AM

October 16, 2008 — -- In an undated photo posted on a Web site memorializing the late-in-life love affair between Thomas Hawks and his wife Jackie, the couple's lips are locked in a kiss.

He has one tanned, muscled arm draped over her shoulder. His other grips the steering wheel of a boat as the rushing wind blows back their hair. The sea beneath them is turquoise and the sky is as bright and wide open as the life friends and family say the Arizona couple built together.

It's an iconic image, one that captures everything the couple loved about life -- the sun, the sea, each other.

They had no idea at the time that one day soon they would be blindfolded, beaten, shackled to the anchor of their own beloved yacht, and dragged to their deaths beneath that same shimmering, turquoise sea.

The abject horror of the final moments of the Hawkses' lives was recounted Wednesday in a tense California courtroom filled with friends and family of the late couple, narrated by one of their killers.

Click here to see a slideshow of Thomas and Jackie Hawks' pictures.

Skylar Deleon, 29, is on trial for masterminding the Hawks' murders so he could get their boat, a 55-foot yacht named Well-Deserved.

In gut-wrenching detail, alleged accomplice Alonso Machain, a cooperating witness for the prosecution, told jurors 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 Wednesday, as tears welled up in the eyes of the Hawks' 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 one of the men grabbed a fishing pole and "started fishing,'' Machain testified.

'Power Rangers' Actor Pleaded Not Guilty to Murder

Deleon, 29, a child actor from the 1990s television series "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," has pleaded not guilty to murder charges, but in opening statements last week his lawyer stunned the courtroom by admitting Deleon had killed the couple.

The attorney, Gary Pohlson, told jurors that he hoped they would spare his client from the death penalty if they found him guilty. He also promised to show how Deleon's former wife, Jennifer Deleon, 27, was at least equally culpable of the crimes.

Jennifer Deleon was tried and convicted for murdering Thomas and Jackie Hawks and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in a separate 2006 trial.

Machain is cooperating with the prosecution in a deal to avoid the death penalty, and an alleged co-conspirator named John Fitzgerald Kennedy is awaiting trial. A fourth man alleged to be involved, Adam Rohrig, was not on the boat when the alleged murders took place and is not expected to face charges.

Skylar Deleon is also facing murder charges in an unrelated killing in 2003. Pohlson acknowledged in opening statements last week that his client also killed Jon Peter Jarvi, who police say had his throat slashed in a Mexican desert after Jarvi reportedly handed over $50,000 to Deleon for a bogus "can't-miss" investment. Deleon is on trial for all three murders.

The two cases are being tried together because some of the same witnesses are expected to be called.

After two years living out their dreams of a life together on the Pacific Ocean, Thomas and Jackie had felt the emotional tug of family, and decided it was time to move to Arizona to be with grandson Jace, born in August, 2004. They put 'Well Deserved' up for sale for $440,000.

On Nov. 15, 2004, the final night of their lives, the Hawkses steered their yacht out of southern California's Newport Harbor just before sunset with Deleon, Machain and Kennedy onboard.

Deleon, who had told the Hawkses he was interested in buying the boat, said he wanted to be taken out to sea so he could swim below and examine the bottom of the yacht.

Without warning, the terror began.

Machain testified that as they sailed the Pacific that day, he was talking to Jackie Hawks in the kitchen when he noticed "Mr. Kennedy had Mr. Hawks in a neck lock."

Machain said he took that as his cue, as he was "in charge" of Jackie, and quickly moved in and "tried to get in on her."

"But she was biting," he said. "I managed to get a wrist lock [handcuff] on her."

The men forced the couple to sign ownership documents and power-of-attorney papers over to Deleon, repeatedly telling them that "if they cooperated they would be let go," Machain said.

Deleon took out a laptop computer and started demanding the couple's personal information, including social security numbers, dates of birth and Jackie Hawks' maiden name, according to Machain.

Yacht Couple Handcuffed, Pleaded for Their Lives

The men handcuffed the couple with duct tape covering their mouths and eyes. They were forced on top of their bed, where Machain was assigned to "babysit" them for several hours while Deleon searched for an anchor, Machain told jurors, adding that Jackie Hawks was crying and her hands were "uncontrollably shaking."

After lying on the bed for several hours and attempting to cry out for their lives, Machain said the tape over the Hawkses' mouths became loose enough that he could understand what they were saying. He said that Jackie Hawks said over and over that "she did not want to die, she wanted to see her grandson."

Machain said he witnessed Tom Hawks trying to comfort her and "tell her everything was going to be OK."

Machain told jurors he was a California prison guard when he met Deleon while Deleon was serving time for burglary in a work furlough program. Machain said that Deleon was "really friendly, really good with people."

Machain testified that Deleon gave the impression "that he was a guy who had money" and told Machain that he made between $100,000 and $200,000 a month "running an Internet business." The two became friends and stayed in touch after Deleon was released.

Machain claimed Deleon approached him in 2004 and "asked if I was interested in making a million dollars." According to Machain, Deleon described himself as a hit man and explained that "this guy [Hawks] was a bad person, and it would be a better world without them."

Machain said the plan was to "kill them and keep whatever money they had." Machain recalled purchasing stun guns and handcuffs with Deleon at a local mall and meeting the Hawks on a docked Well Deserved twice before their fatal trip.

After the first visit, Machain said Deleon called his pregnant wife, Jennifer Deleon, and told her she needed to meet the Hawks to "make the deal more real" and "make the couple feel at ease."

Deleon decided that Tom Hawks was too big for them to "handle" and started looking for a "third person." They eventually recruited John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

In the weeks following the murder, Machain said, "I became very depressed. I wouldn't talk to anyone."

He said he spent some time in Mexico and decided that "I just couldn't live with looking over my shoulder the rest of my life. I had to face the consequences."

He later turned himself in and began cooperating with police.

The prosecution rested their case Wednesday, and the attorneys are expected to begin closing arguments this morning.

According to the defense, the trial will resume on Monday, when the jury is expected to begin deliberations.