Remarks: District Attorney Tony Rackauckas

Remarks:  District Attorney Tony Rackauckas
Press Conference: 09/06/06
Re:  Seeking the Death Penalty against Skylar Deleon and John Kennedy

Thank you for coming.  I have here with me Sgt. Dave Byington representing the Newport Beach Police Department.  They are continuing to do an excellent job investigating the case.  Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy will be trying all three cases including the other Deleon cases involving the solicitation for murder and the murder of John Jarvi.

Since I became the District Attorney of Orange County, I have sought the punishment of death in 33 cases.  Of those cases, Orange County juries recommended that 13 of them receive the ultimate penalty of death.  Nine of the 22 received life without the possibility of parole.  11 are pending jury trials.

Before the death penalty is considered for any defendant, I convene a “Special Circumstances Committee” that includes Chief Assistant Chuck Middleton and at least three prosecutors with considerable death penalty case experience. 

At the hearing, the assigned deputy district attorney presents the facts of the case.  The factors considered are:  the strengths of the evidence, the seriousness of the crime, the damage to the community, and whether justice will be served by seeking the death penalty as to the defendant.

We give the defense an opportunity to present any mitigating evidence.  The aggravating factors must clearly outweigh any mitigating factors.  We discuss this in the Committee and the Committee makes a recommendation.  I then personally make the final decision. 

The decision to seek the death penalty is the most serious responsibility I have as the District Attorney.  There are some murders, however, that are committed with such a malignant heart, such callousness, that the only just penalty is death. 

Three recent examples include:

Alejandro Avila who kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered little Samantha Runnion;
Maurice Steskal who ambushed and murdered a deputy sheriff with an assault rifle at a Lake Forest 7-11;
and Dung Trinh who armed himself with two handguns and 90 bullets at an Anaheim hospital and opened fire and murdered an administrator, a nursing assistant, and a pharmacist, and attempted the murder of another.

This case involves the 2004 murder of Jackie and Thomas Hawks in Newport Beach. The defendants in this case are Skylar Deleon, his wife Jennifer Deleon, Alonso Machain, Myron Gardner Sr., and John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Jackie and Thomas Hawks were good people.  They were loved.  They were parents, grandparents, brother, sister, and someone’s child.  They loved their life.  The fact that their life was unexpectedly extinguished was evident in the boat — a row of half used hot sauce bottles and marks on the page in the books they put down. 

I am seeking the death penalty for Skylar Deleon and John Kennedy for the 2004 double murder of Jackie and Thomas Hawks.  This was a clear case.  The trial is scheduled to begin on January 29, 2007. 

The Committee found that Skylar Deleon is charged with multiple murders and murder for financial gain of the Hawks. 

*He is also charged with murdering John Jarvi for financial gain before murdering the Hawks. 

*He has a prior 2003 Strike conviction for committing a residential burglary armed with a firearm, duct tape, and handcuffs. 

*In the Hawks case, we found particularly aggravating the cruel and cold blooded way two innocent people were murdered. 

*Deleon is accused of planning their murder for days, coordinating with his wife and using their infant child to gain the Hawks’ trust, and hiring “muscle” to murder this couple. 

*We also found the Hawks were murdered in the most cold blooded way — tied together to an anchor, thrown into the deep, frigid ocean, the pressure rapidly filling their lungs.  This couple literally watched their dreams float away as they were drowning to death. 

*We also considered that after Deleon was charged with the Hawks and the Jarvi murders, he was charged with soliciting the murder of his own father and a cousin, both witnesses. 

Based on those findings, I have decided to pursue the death penalty on Skylar Deleon. 

The Committee found Kennedy had many of the same aggravating factors as Deleon.  Furthermore, Kennedy has a prior Strike for an attempted murder conviction in 1988. 
*Even though Mr. Kennedy was late in joining the conspiracy, without Kennedy providing the muscle, this crime could not have been carried out. 

*We also found aggravating the callous and nonchalant manner in which Kennedy acted after he personally murdered the Hawks. 

*We also considered Mr. Kennedy’s gang membership in a Los Angeles County street gang an aggravating factor. 

Based on those findings, I have decided to pursue the death penalty on John Kennedy.   

These two joined in this cruel and callous murder.  Deleon the brain, Kennedy the brawn.  Now they will face the same penalty and their fate will be decided by the People of Orange County.