Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
May 1, 2009
Susan Kang Schroeder
HARDCORE GANG MEMBER SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR MURDER-FOR-PROFIT KILLING OF COUPLE ON THEIR NEWPORT BEACH YACHT
SANTA ANA – A hardcore, documented gang member was sentenced today to the death penalty 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, was convicted by a jury on Feb. 19, 2009, of felonies for two counts of special circumstances murder for committing multiple murders for financial gain. The jury recommended the death penalty on Feb. 27, 2009.
Co-defendant Skylar Deleon, 29, Long Beach, was sentenced to the death penalty on April 10, 2009. He 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.
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-defendant Alonso Machain, 25, Pico Rivera, is charged with felonies for two counts of special circumstances murder for committing multiple murders for financial gain. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Machain is scheduled for pre-trial May 27, 2009, in Department C-55, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana. Co-defendant Myron Gardner, 45, Long Beach, who had spent four years in jail awaiting trial on this case and provided truthful testimony during Kennedy’s trial as to what happened, pleaded guilty March 19, 2009, to one felony count of accessory after the fact and was sentenced to one year in jail. He received credit for time served.
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 went 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 posed as Skylar Deleon’s “accountant.” Once out at sea, Kennedy overpowered the victims with the help of Skylar Deleon and Machain, forced the Hawks’ to sign the transfer of title documents, handcuffed and tied them to the anchor, and drowned them in the ocean.