Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
HARDCORE GANG MEMBER FACES TRIAL FOR MURDER-FOR-PROFIT KILLING OF COUPLE ON
THEIR NEWPORT BEACH YACHT
*The District Attorney is seeking the death penalty in this case
SANTA ANA – A hardcore, documented gang member faces trial Monday for providing muscle in the murder-for-profit killings of Thomas and Jackie Hawks on their yacht off Newport Beach in 2004. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 43, Long Beach, is charged with felonies for two counts of special circumstances murder for committing multiple murders for financial gain. He has a prior strike for a 1988 attempted murder conviction. The District Attorney is seeking the death penalty in this case. Opening statements against Kennedy are scheduled to begin Monday, Jan. 26, 2009, at 1:30 p.m. in Department C-35, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Co-defendant Skylar Deleon, 29, Long Beach, was found guilty by a jury on Oct. 20, 2008, of three felony counts of special circumstances murder for multiple murders and murder for financial gain. He has a prior strike for a 2003 residential burglary conviction. A jury recommended the death penalty for Skylar Deleon on Nov. 6, 2008. He is scheduled to be formally sentenced on March 20,2 009, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-35, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana. Skylar Deleon’s ex-wife, Jennifer Deleon, 27, Long Beach, was found guilty by a jury on Nov. 17, 2006, of two felony counts of murder with sentencing enhancement allegations for committing multiple murders for financial gain. She was sentenced Oct. 5, 2007, to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Co-defendants Myron Gardner, 45, Long Beach, and Alonso Machain, 25, Pico Rivera, are charged with felonies for two counts of special circumstances murder for committing multiple murders for financial gain. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Gardner and Machain are scheduled for pre-trial March 27, 2009, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-55, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
In November 2004, Thomas and Jackie Hawks placed an advertisement for their 55-foot yacht named “Well Deserved” for $440,000. The couple wanted to spend more time with their new grandchild in Arizona. Skylar Deleon, who changed his name from John Jacobson Jr., was the brain behind the plot to murder the Hawks’ and take their boat and life savings with Machain, Gardner, Kennedy, and his then-wife Jennifer Deleon.
On Nov. 9, 2004, Skylar Deleon plotted with his then-pregnant wife, Jennifer Deleon, to gain the Hawks’ trust by taking Jennifer Deleon and their 9-month-old baby to meet the Hawks on their boat, which Skylar Deleon and Machain had staked out three days prior. Gardner is accused of recruiting Kennedy, a hard-core, documented Los Angeles gang member, to provide “muscle.”
On Nov. 15, 2004, Kennedy is accused of going with Skylar Deleon and Machain to take the boat out of the harbor with the Hawks’ under the pretense of test driving it for a possible sale. Kennedy is accused of posing as Skylar Deleon’s accountant. Once out at sea, Kennedy is accused of overpowering the victims with the help of Skylar Deleon and Machain, forcing the Hawks’ to sign the transfer of title documents, handcuffing and tying them to the anchor, and drowning them in the ocean. Skylar and Jennifer