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Well Deserved Justice

Updated: Jul 31

Intro

Welcome to Crime Raven; true crimes, real-life stories from law enforcement, and issues crime fighters face. This story highlights crimes researched by retired Detective Sergeant Mark Rein using publicly available information, court records, and personal recollections. Content may be graphic, disturbing, or violent. Listener discretion is advised. Suspects are considered innocent until found guilty in a court of law.


Jon's Story

Five banded stacks of $100 bills. It didn't look as significant as he thought it should, sitting on the counter. As a security measure, the manager had taken him to an area of the bank out of public view.


"Are you sure you don't want to transfer that with a cashier's check?" The manager suggested. Jon replied, smiling, " No thanks. I've got it taken care of." He took each stack and rolled it in his hand, examining each as he transferred them to the courier satchel slung over one of his shoulders.


"Well, be careful, sir." Jon flashed his smile again, nodding, and walked out of the bank.

Later, Skylar was waiting at a picnic table in a parking lot. As John approached, Skylar's eyebrows raised in question. "So we good?" Jon chuckled a little nervously, and he looked around, "I don't think I've ever had this much cash before," he said. "They asked me if I wanted a cashier's check."


Skylar grinned, holding out his hand, "our Mexican partners won't take a check, just good old cash." John handed over the satchel and said, "so that's it? I just wait?"


Skylar said, "man, it's as easy as that. I told you. If you can get the money, I'll take care of the rest. And we both get rich. Don't worry about it. You're the big dog money man in this. Everybody else has to do the work for you." Jon sighed, "okay. It's just, it's a lot of money for me, and I've never met anybody."


" I'll pass the cash off today. There's really no one to meet." Skylar said, "if you want, you can ride with me tomorrow for the pickup. You'd have to take some precautions because they don't know you." John said, "Yeah, man, I'll go. I know you said this is a one-time investment opportunity, but maybe we could do business again if I could meet them."


"Like I told you, these fuckers are seriously paranoid. They only trust me because my dad did his time in club fed without saying shit about them. I'll put in a good word for you, whether you go with me or not," Skylar paused, "look, they know my car. So how about I pick you up about noon? I'll bring the boards, and maybe there'll be some waves too."


24 hours later, John found himself being driven by Skylar north of Ensenada on the coastal highway. The trip down from San Diego had taken two hours. They crossed the border with plenty of time before the meeting, but the surf had been disappointingly flat. At an unremarkable pullout, Skylar stopped, and he told Jon to wrap a bandana over his eyes.

Jon was hesitant. But Skylar kept reminding him that the business partners don't know or trust him. And until that changes, his access will be limited. Jon grudgingly blindfolded himself. Skylar assured his friend that he would take care of him. John felt Skyler drive forward and away from the busy highway, stopping a very short distance later. Skyler opened Jon's door and, taking his arm, he said, " we have to walk downhill on a path for a minute." He guided Jon out of the car and down the path. The sound of the highway traffic was distinct but grew quieter as they descended. Jon was nervous and talkative. He chattered about what he was gonna spend his share of the money on.


Suddenly, Jon heard Skylar whisper, and he shifted towards his friend. "What?" He felt a sharp bite at his neck. Skylar pulled the blade across Jon's throat as he pushed Jon down the slope. Off balance, Jon splayed flat on the gravel, blood gushing out of his neck like a river in the dirt.


John tried to staunch the blood with the bandana. As he pivoted on his knees to look up slope. Skylar stood a few yards above him, a stainless steel dive knife glinting in the sunlight in his right hand. Skylar stood expressionless as if evaluating.


Jon couldn't believe what happened. His mind cycled quickly from disbelief to questions to anger. He rallied on that anger, screamed at Skylar, and tried to jump up and lunge toward him. Skylar looked fearful, and he jumped backward and ran back up the ravine and out of sight.


The lunge had cost Jon more spilled blood. He fell back to his knees, weak and dizzy. As he replaced the bandana over the wound, he had time to think. It was suddenly clear to Jon just how big a fool he was. He trusted Skylar. The second surge of rage helped push Jon up and toward the lip of the ravine. It couldn't be far. He could hear the passing cars. They seemed so close. If he could get there, he could get help. He just needed to stop the blood from coming over the bandana. Jon crawled, gripping the soaking rag to his throat. A three-legged crab scuttling across the sand. He finally pulled himself over the lip of the ravine and into the view of the busy roadway.


Skylar's car was nowhere to be seen. Jon felt dizzy. He wobbled and tried to catch himself with his left hand, the one holding the bandana, the last sustaining blood poured from his throat as he collapsed onto the Mexican roadside.


Tom and Jackie's Story

Thomas Hawks was a man who always had a path. He grew up in Southern California. A child of surf and sand taking advantage of the outdoor recreation activities the region is famous for. He married shortly after graduating high school, a relationship that gave him two sons. The marriage didn't work out, but the split was amicable.


Tom left California drawn six hours east by a job as a probation officer in Prescot, Arizona. Once in Prescot, Tom set about ordering his adult life. He bought a small cabin in the high desert, built it out, adding plenty of room for himself and his two sons. He was a popular, gregarious man with a busy life. A fitness enthusiast, Tom participated in amateur competitive bodybuilding and was an arm wrestling champion. Jackie O'Neil grew up in Ohio and married her first husband shortly after high school. They moved to Arizona for employment opportunities.


In 1985, the couple had been married for 11 years when tragedy struck. They were riding tandem on a Harley Davidson when a drunk driver crashed into them. Jackie's husband was killed instantly. Jackie was seriously injured in the collision. She returned to Ohio, where her parents, during a lengthy recovery, were able to nurse their daughter back to health.

When Jackie was able, she returned to her life in Arizona. There, she met Thomas Hawks in 1986 at a chili Cookoff at the home of mutual friends. They hid it off immediately. Tom had a self-assured, confident air about him that Jackie liked. Their love for fitness and outdoor activities added to the attraction.


The happy couple married in 1989. And she moved in with Tom and the boys. Tom had grown up boating, and the entire family loved the water. So it was natural that he, Jackie, and the boys would own a boat and travel to lakes on weekends and for vacation trips. As the years passed, the couple planned for a retirement that would include extended boating trips, maybe a boat that could cruise the west coast and south into Mexico. The Hawks were financially savvy, investing successfully in real estate and planning for their future.

Tom retired from his career in probations with the same kind of planning he'd put into his life. In 2001, they sold their property in Arizona and bought a boat that they named the Well Deserved.


Moored in Long Beach, this wasn't just a boat. This was a home on the water with two decks, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a galley. It wasn't a luxury yacht, but it was comfortable, seaworthy, and had plenty of room for the couple and a few guests.


At first, the couple took the yacht on shakedown cruises, followed by periods where Tom used his skill with his hands to build and install anything that they needed that the boat wasn't already equipped with. He put in the latest electronics and desalination equipment. So their adventures were less limited.


One day in October 2002, the Well Deserved left Long Beach and headed out for extended cruising. They traveled down the west coast of Baja around Cabo San Lucas and into the Sea of Cortez. While on that journey, Tom did some freelance writing. In one article, written for the cruising magazine Latitudes and Attitudes, December 2003 issue, Tom wrote of the experience of retiring to the boat. "The sea was calling us, and we couldn't wait any longer. Life is just too short to put things off. And one cannot discover new oceans unless they have the courage to lose sight of the shore." For the February 2005 issue of the same magazine, he advised other like-minded sailors on keeping up physical fitness in the confines of a boat using calisthenics and a set of dumbbells.


The Hawks kept friends and family apprised of their adventures. They detailed the trip, encounters with wildlife and weather, parties, and new friendships in regular emails. The days were golden. The nights were divine.


Two years into their retirement adventure on water, the Hawks heard a different siren call. This one from land. They had a grandchild coming back in Arizona. That fact caused them to reassess their priorities. They had learned that life on the 55-foot boat was rewarding, but it was also expensive and labor intensive.


They decided to sell the Well Deserved to buy a smaller boat and a home on land. Preferably close to the grandbaby. With their lives' new direction in mind, the Hawks piloted their craft back to the LA basin, arriving in Newport Harbor in June 2004.


They began advertising the sale in cruising magazines. The Hawks wanted to find a buyer who would appreciate and care for the Well Deserved. A young couple who responded to the advertisement, Skylar and Jennifer Deleon, seemed to fit.


They were a family with a little girl, and Jennifer was pregnant with a second. They were a good-looking, personable couple. But Tom was skeptical that two people who were so young, both only in their mid-twenties, had the resources to pay for the boat. Skylar assured them that he had money, saying he was a former child actor and current businessman, and he was gonna pay in cash.


The Deleon's interest in the sale seemed legitimate. They came to look at the Well Deserved several times. On one visit, Jackie was excited to see the Deleon's infant daughter, describing their family experiences on the water. Jackie talked about how the boat sale would benefit both families, allowing them to spend time with their new grandchild. The Deleons made a full-price cash offer, which the Hawks accepted. They picked a date for the sea trial, which would allow the owner to help the buyer with any questions or problems.


On Monday, November 15th, 2004, it was perfect for boating. Clear blue skies, uninterrupted sunshine, light winds, and temperatures only in the seventies. It was an average beautiful day in California. The sea trial was bittersweet for the Hawks. It meant the end of a chapter for them on a boat that had become more than a hull with a motor. The Well Deserved was home was freedom, was an adventure. In some ways, selling was the end of a dream. The thing that made it bearable was that parting with her made other dreams accessible; the remembrances of family times past and present were spawning new dreams for the future.


Skylar and entourage, who the Hawks hadn't met before, arrived at the docks just after 3:00 PM. Skylar introduced John Kennedy, his accountant, and Alonzo Machain, his friend. After the introductions and orientation around the boat, they pushed off and motored into the ocean towards Catalina island, 30 miles to the west. Jackie called a friend, leaving a message that they were headed out to sea.


As they motored out the guests on the Well Deserved, moved around, purportedly evaluating the function of the yacht's numerous mechanical and electronic systems. Skylar asked some questions, but the group moved around independently for the most part. Tom was confident in his craft's seaworthiness and allowed them the space to come to the same conclusion.


After an hour, Kennedy complained of seasickness and stepped below. A few minutes later, Skylar went below, ostensibly to check on his ailing accountant.


When no one returned, Tom became concerned and followed the two men. When Tom entered the cabin, Skylar and Kennedy were waiting for him. The pair attacked, pummeling Tom and shocking him with stun guns. A ferocious battle began. After the initial surprise, the captain of the Well Deserved understood that he was in a fight for his life. Tom was much older than his attackers, but he was in great physical shape. The struggle raged for a couple of minutes, with neither side able to land decisive blows. Then Kennedy got Tom in a choke hold as Skylar continued his assault with breathtaking hits from the stun gun.

On the main salon deck, Jackie heard the commotion below. The men were banging around in the small stateroom, their bodies slamming against the bulkhead, the force of which reverberated throughout the boat and was audible over the sound of the diesel engine. Alarmed, Jackie yelled, "what's going on?" She jumped out of the seat that she had been in since the beginning of the trip and moved toward the fight. Machain's assignment was to subdue Jackie, and he tackled her in the middle of the cabin. Like her husband below, Jackie was in great shape. And like her husband knew, she was in the fight for her life. She screamed, hit, scratched, and bit as furiously as possible. Machain responded by producing his own taser and using it on Jackie. In the end, Machain was younger and stronger. He subdued her with a wrist lock and forced handcuffs on her.


Jackie turned from physical combat to emotional as Machain dragged her down to where her husband was lying subdued on the main cabin bed. She yelled at Skylar, "we trusted you! How could you do this?" She begged for their lives, reminding Skylar that they had met his daughter. She yelled that she didn't wanna die, that they had a grandchild in Arizona.

None of her pleadings made any difference. When Jackie was on the bed, Skylar ordered Machain to fetch duct tape that he'd seen in the engine compartment. The Hawks, whose hands were already cuffed behind their backs, had the tape wrapped around their mouths and across their eyes.


Machain was stationed in the cabin to watch the couple. For the next hours, he listened to the drone of the motor, the muffled cries of Jackie Hawk through the tape, and watched as Tom tried to comfort his wife, silently caressing her with his cuffed hands.


At the end of an interminable wait, the Hawks were led up onto the main deck. The tape was cut from over one eye. The tape covering Jackie's mouth had come loose, and she began to plead with her captors, repeatedly begging to be allowed to live and see her grandchild. With a look of scorn. Skylar said, "of course, I wanna take you to Mexico and drop you off. If you cooperate, you'll be fine. If you refuse, we will kill you right here."


One at a time, the Hawk sat at the galley table. They were forced to sign a sales receipt for the Well Deserved and a durable power of attorney. The next demand was for their personal information, dates of birth, social security numbers, and Jackie's maiden name. Then they had to provide all of their banking information.


When the business was done, the couple stood together on the deck with Kennedy and Machain. Skylar could be heard in the boat's bow. Then a sound that the Hawks knew well. The sound of the anchor chain paying out and then being dragged aft down one side of the hull. The Hawks were seasoned sailors. They had seen the ocean in all its moods, but never had the brilliant blue above and below the horizon seemed so forbidding and cruel as it did that evening.


As a rope was tied to each of their waists, Jackie could only repeat the mantra that had supported her for the last few hours, "I want to live to see my grandbaby." She said it with less strength now. Tom swayed closer to Jackie and whispered his own secret mantra into her ear. "It's okay. We're gonna be together."


Skylar, who had just completed tying off the Hawks to the anchor, stepped close enough to give Tom what he was waiting for. Tom shot a kick into Skylar's groin that solidly connected. Skylar was pitched backward and onto his butt. Tom surged forward, intent on a series of blows that could reverse their fortunes. At that moment, Kennedy standing to the side, unseen, stepped forward and landed a solid right hook in the side of Tom's face. The blow was sudden unexpected, and was magnified by the power of Tom's forward movement. And Tom crumpled to the deck nearly unconscious. The scene was still for a moment. Jackie stood over Tom, who lolled dazedly on the deck. Still on his back, Skylar propped up on two elbows, looking at Tom. Machain lurked somewhere in the background, and Kennedy hulked over the scene. Skylar spun his legs outward and kicked the almost 70-pound anchor off the deck. The weight hit the water below, and the slack and the chain and the attached line were instantly gone. Tom was brutally ripped across the Gunnell under the rail and into the water. A split second later, Jackie was slammed down, her head bouncing off the deck as she followed her husband. they thrashed in the water for an instant before being pulled into the increasingly dark deep.


The Well Deserved's autopilot was programmed to take the vessel out into the deepest water southeast of Catalina Island. That is where Thomas Hawks, 57, and Jackie Hawks, 47, were thrown overboard and dragged down to the bottom 3000 feet below.


After the Hawks were gone, the men ransacked the boat, keeping anything of value and tossing personal items overboard. Skylar seemed to enjoy skipping the Hawk's photos out across the waves. After pillaging the Well Deserved, Kennedy opened a beer and fished all the way back to the marina.


Investigation

The transient nature of the Hawks' retirement meant that friends and family did not immediately miss them in November 2004. But the couple had kept in touch with people, emailing trip updates and calling regularly. Tom had a friend that was supposed to help him move personal property back to Arizona the week after the boat sale.


When Tom stood the friend up, the friend called the son, Ryan Hawks. When Ryan couldn't reach either Tom or Jackie, he called his uncle Jim, Tom's brother, who was a retired police chief of the City of Carlsbad, California. On the Wednesday, following the Hawks disappearance, Jim Hawks and the friend went to the Newport Harbor and met with the port captain, Carter Ford.


They noticed that the dinghy belonging to the Well Deserved was tied to the dock in an unusual way, and the motor was still in the water. They agreed this was not as Tom would've squared away the boat. The three men took Carter Ford's skiff to where the Well Deserved was moored. One look at the boat confirmed that something was wrong. The protective canvas covers that should have been secured over expensive equipment were either askew or missing. On one side of the boat, a porthole was open, and a towel was hanging out. The men circled, calling inside, and then went aboard when there was no answer. They noticed that some of the Hawks' personal property was missing while other things inexplicably remained. Jim Hawks reasoned that if the boat sale had been completed, some of that property would've been removed before it was turned over to the new owners. Jim left his business card with a note. "If you are the new owners, please call."


Jim received a call from a woman the next day. She told him that her name was Jennifer Deleon and confirmed that she and her husband Skylar were the new owners of the Well Deserved. Jennifer told Jim that they hadn't heard from the Hawks but asked him to tell Tom to call Skylar about an issue with the boat. Jim was skeptical but was unable to ask more questions. As Jennifer said, she had to go and hung up abruptly.


Jim spread the word of what they found across family and friends. Some people thought the couple might have taken an impromptu celebratory trip without telling anyone. They decided to give Tom and Jackie until Thanksgiving, still a few days away, to appear.

On November 26th, Jim was contacted by the Hawks' bank. Skylar Deleon had attempted to withdraw cash from branches in Arizona and Mexico using a power of attorney. Jim contacted Newport police and reported the situation. The Newport police assigned investigators to the Hawks missing person case right away. And they started by gathering and organizing available information and interviewing the close family and friends. The basic facts were that the owners Thomas and Jackie Hawks, had advertised their 55-foot yacht, the Well Deserved, for sale. The boat had been extensively advertised in boat and yachting magazines with the asking price of $435,000. Before the sale, the Hawks, a retired couple, had spent two years cruising the west coast of California and Mexico. After their trip, the Hawks had moored the boat in Newport. The witnesses said that the Hawks had recently received and accepted a full cash offer for the boat, possibly from Skylar and Jackie Deleon.


The missing person report was suspicious because the Hawks were reported as very accountable and dependable. Thomas Hawks was a retired probation officer from a Sheriff's office in Arizona. Neither Tom nor Jackie had been heard from since the afternoon they went on a sale-related trip with the new buyers. Compounding suspicion, the new buyer, Skylar Deleon, had since attempted to withdraw money from the Hawks bank account using a signed power of attorney. The brother of the missing man, Jim Hawks, was a retired local police chief who was saying that a power of attorney was inexplicable and not something that his brother Tom would ever give to a stranger. In the initial round of interviews, detectives talked to Tom Hawks' old boss from Arizona, Brian Gray, who had recently gone out on the Well Deserved. Brian said that Tom was skeptical that a man Skylar's age, only 25, could afford the boat's price. Skylar presented himself as a retired child actor and businessman, and he convinced Tom that he was a serious buyer by convincingly talking about his profitable real estate investments.


The Newport police put a surveillance team in place to watch the Deleons while the investigation came up to speed. What they discovered was Jennifer was working as a hairdresser. It was unclear if Skylar was working. The couple had a young daughter and another child on the way. They appeared to be living in the garage of the middle-class home owned by Jennifer's parents. As the initial investigation was completed, the detectives were unsure what to expect. The Deleons didn't look like criminals. The surveillance team reported watching what looked like a typical young family going about everyday lives. When the detectives first contacted the Deleons, they were doing volunteer work, cleaning their church.


It didn't take long to break the perfect family illusion. Investigators learned that while Jennifer had grown up in a stable close-knit family in Long Beach, Skylar had a different experience. Skylar's father was a drug smuggler and dealer who had done several years in federal prison. Skyler had an extremely problematic work history. He told everyone that would listen that he had been a child actor, but there was almost no evidence of that. He possibly was used as a non-speaking extra in two episodes of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in the early nineties. But that was it. After high school, Skylar enlisted in the Marine Corps, but he went AWOL after a couple of months and took home a dishonorable discharge.


Skylar landed a job with the mortgage company Ditech around the same time that he married Jennifer Skylar's Ditech job didn't last long. He was arrested while burglarizing the home of a coworker. He was caught carrying a gun and handcuffs. When the case went to court, Skylar was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison. He would serve that term at a detention center at Seal Beach near San Diego. The Deleon's financial background did not indicate the ability to pay $450,000 for a yacht. It wasn't even the financial picture of a couple able to afford the Well Deserved's dinghy. The couple was struggling with an increasing debt accumulation with no apparent way to close the deficit.


When the detectives were ready, they interviewed Skylar and Jennifer Deleon, who gave the story they expected. The Deleons confirmed that they purchased the Well Deserved using cash. Neither knew where the Hawks went. The last time Skyler or his wife saw them, they were in the Marina's parking lot. They said the Hawks put a briefcase full of cash into their silver Honda CR-V and drove away. Skylar said he had no idea where the Hawks may have gone. He told detectives they might be searching for property to buy in the San Carlos area of Mexico based on conversations that he and Tom had had. The investigators did not initially challenge Skylar's story, letting him tell the story how he wanted to. What Skylar didn't appreciate was how much they already knew.


The investigators began pressing and challenging Skylar on the details. That was when parts of the story broke down. How did Skylar get the cash to buy a boat worth half a million dollars? He ultimately broke down, admitting that it was money he was laundering from a drug transaction.


When asked about the power of attorney, Skylar told the investigators that the Hawks had asked him for assistance in moving their money. Skylar reiterated his assertion that although he didn't know where the Hawks were, they expected his help with banking in the future. He gave the detectives the paperwork with both Thomas and Jackie's signatures. At first, the document looked legitimate, having been signed in the presence of a notary. Leaving the initial interviews with the Deleons, the investigators were unsure of what to think. Skylar was convincing and had made admissions against self-interest. In fact, he had admitted to a felony. Skylar's account of the Hawks leaving for Mexico matched cell phone records from the day after the sea trial, which indicated the Hawks' cell phones traveled south across the border.


The detectives decided to keep lines of communication with the Deleons open as long as possible and continue to work the missing person's case. The police searched the Well Deserved for clues. They found a sales receipt dated November 17th for the purchase of heavy-duty garbage bags and bleach. They also noted that there was only one anchor aboard, despite recent photos and interviews with family members indicating that there should have been two.


One of the investigative priorities was locating the Hawks' Honda CR-V. To that end, the detectives asked Ryan Hawks to make a public appeal for information about his parents or the vehicle. An American citizen who lived in Mexico responded immediately, saying that the car was parked in a Mexican border town neighborhood. The Mexican Federalis responded and interrogated the occupants of the house. The people who lived where the Hawes Honda was found cooperated with the police. They said Skylar Deleon had dropped off the car. A man who identified himself as one of Skylar's surfing buddies said that Skylar showed up one day and gifted the car to him. He said Jennifer Deleon had arrived at the same time. And the pair drove off together. The car wasn't the only evidence found in Mexico. Police interviewed bank tellers who dealt with Skylar Deleon when he tried to use the power of attorney. In Mexico, the video shows a smiling Jennifer with Skylar, as they insisted they were getting the money out for the Hawks. Neither bank branch allowed them to withdraw money.


Early forensic analysis in the case came up with two pieces of evidence. Skylar's DNA was found on one of the Honda's dashboard knobs, and a handwriting analysis showed that Jackie's signature on the power of attorney was unusual. She had left off the letter S in Hawks.


Just as the investigation began to focus on the Deleons, Skylar's probation officer tipped off detectives that Skylar was requesting to leave the country for work. This forced the prosecutor's hand. They decided to charge Skylar Deleon with the crime that he had already admitted to - money laundering. When police grabbed him in December 2004, Skylar had been about to flee and was wearing an adult diaper.


At the time of Skylar's arrest. The police served a search warrant on the Deleon's residence. There, they found a cache of personal documents, identification, media storage, a video camera, and a laptop computer that were all Hawks property. One of the video recordings was of the Hawks and then sharply cut to the Thanksgiving celebration at the Deleon's home. When confronted with the evidence, Jennifer stuck to her story and became hostile with investigators.


One of the seemingly unrelated items that investigators noted in the house search was the business card of a detective with the Los Angeles police department. They called that officer looking for background information and were handed a murder investigation. The LAPD detective told his Newport counterpart that he was an INTERPOL liaison and that the Mexican police had contacted him about an American from San Diego who had been murdered in late December 2003. The victim, in that case, had his throat slashed and his body dumped beside the highway, just north of Ensenada. Mexican police had not been able to do anything with the case. The victim's name was Jon Jarvi, and the day he was murdered, he was known to have been traveling with Skylar Deleon.


Following the search of the Deleon home, the detectives began to spread their net wider, looking for anyone who might tell them the whole story. They started with the names documented on the power of attorney. The notary public who certified the signatures was a woman named Kay Harris. It didn't take detectives long to shake kay of the original story. She admitted that Skylar paid her $2,000 to backdate the form and seal the document. The signatures were already on the paper when she stamped it.


The witness listed on the power of attorney was Alonzo Machain. Investigators initially talked to Machain, who parrotted Skylar's story about the boat sale. As the pace of the investigation picked up and attention turned back to Machain, detectives discovered that he had fled to Mexico. By the time he was located, law enforcement was fairly certain the Hawks had been murdered. Machain agreed to return to the US if the death penalty was taken off the table in his case. When Machain was back in California, he gave a complete confession and detailed the roles played by his co-conspirators.


Machain met Skylar when he was a jail guard at the Seal Beach facility where Skylar did time for burglary. Machain said that Skylar approached him with a plan to steal a yacht and promised a big payoff for everyone involved. Machain said that after the initial conversation, Skylar kept him updated on the plan and introduced him to another friend, John F. Kennedy, who was supposedly an OG gang banger. Kennedy was brought into the group as muscle. Tom Hawks was a big strong guy, and they needed Kennedy to help overpower him. Machain said, as they were preparing for the operation, Tom was voicing suspicion about the Deleon's ability to pay for the boat. His concerns were allayed by Jennifer Deleon taking their young daughter and meeting with the Hawks. Machain said this meeting using the kid was a deliberate ploy to get the Hawks' guard down.


On the day of the murders, Machain said that h,e Skylar and Kennedy when aboard the Well Deserved. Machain was introduced to Skylar's friend and Kennedy, his accountant. Once they were sufficiently out to sea, Kennedy fained sea sickness and went below. Skylar and Tom Hawks followed in succession. Machain said that subduing Jackie Hawks was his responsibility, which he did when he heard the fight down below decks. According to Machain, the conspirators had worked the individual assignments out well ahead of time, and everything went as planned. When Tom and Jackie Hawks were both subdued, and in the master cabin, Machain was the one assigned to guard them. Skylar oversaw navigation and charted the course to the deepest water southeast of Catalina island.


As they arrived at the destination, they brought the Hawks up on deck, and Skylar made them sign documents and disclose their banking information. That all went is planned until, as they were about to push the couple overboard, Tom kicked Skyler. That attempt at resistance ended when Kennedy punched Tom in the head, nearly knocking him unconscious.


Machain said that once the Hawks were gone, they searched the boat for anything valuable. Skylar threw the Hawk's personal property overboard, and Kennedy drank beer and fished all the way back to the marina.


Following Machain's confession, the investigators set out about corroborating what they could of the information he provided. They had no problem finding Kennedy. He was a 39-year-old OG with a Long Beach Crip set. Kennedy had a long rap sheet that included conviction for attempted murder.


One detail that Machain provided was that Skylar was on the phone constantly with Jennifer, updating her as the crime progressed. Detectives found that they had communicated over the cell phone, racking up almost 30 calls on the day of the murders. The calls corresponded with significant phases of the crime.


The Hawks investigators also took up the orphan Jon Jarvi murder case. This is what they found. Skyler met Jon when they were inmates at the Seal Beach correctional facility. Early in life, Jon Jarvi had been a small aircraft pilot and airshow announcer. His drug addiction ended all of that. Jon also was a guy who could not resist a get-rich-quick scheme. A friend had pulled Jon into a doomed money counterfeiting scheme that landed Jon in a cell with a charismatic and manipulative Skylar. Skylar befriended the 45-year-old Jon, and learning that his friend was the proud owner of a San Diego area condominium, Skylar presented Jon with his next get rich quick opportunity. It was guaranteed to make them both rich. Skylar told John that he had a opportunity coming from Mexico that would pay big time if he could come up with a way to fund the purchase. Jon, who was almost broke, had to be led to the trough. Skylar suggested that Jon take out a second mortgage on his condo. He could invest the money in the deal, and Skylar would take care of the rest, making a massive profit for both of them.

Jon was skeptical, but Skylar was convincing. Skylar could get a special deal with his Mexican hookup because his father had gone to prison for the group and hadn't ratted anyone out. They owed Skylar, and they trusted him. Upon release from jail, Jon applied for the refinance and was notified he could cash out $50,000 from his condo's equity.

While Skylar was an inmate, he participated in a day furlough program. For a $1,200 a month fee, he was allowed out of the facility during the day to work. The day before Jon was murdered, he pulled $50,000 out of his bank and then called Skylar. Two hours later, Skylar spent $18,000 on equipment at a boat dealer, deposited $21,000 in his bank account, and bought a $2,200 ring for Jennifer.


Newport investigators found several compelling pieces of evidence tying Skyler to Jon right up until the time of Jon's murder. Cell phone activity showed that the two men regularly conversed over the critical 36 hours before Jon's death. Jon's mother, a Southern California resident, said Jon had told her he was driving with a friend to Mexico that day to complete a promising investment.


When LAPD dipped its toe into Jon's murder, they found that Skylar was in possession of Jon's car. To top it all off, on the day that Jon was found with his throat slit, Skylar was out of jail on the furlough program. He had arrived back at the facility far later than the program allowed, but no one had called him on it.


The clock on the Skylar investigations wound down inverse to the number of arrests and charges. Skylar, Kennedy, and Machain were all charged with two counts of murder and myriad lesser offenses for the crimes against the Hawks. Jennifer wasn't charged with the men. After the arrest, she stood by Skylar, speaking to local news outlets decrying her husband's innocence and claiming conspiracy and crying foul. Her respite was short-lived. Prosecutors were merely mulling how deeply they could prove she was involved. It didn't take long before Jennifer had her own jail cell and set of murder charges.


A man named Myron Gardner was charged with being an accessory to the Hawks murders. Gardner was friends with Skylar from when they worked together as electrician assistants. Skylar approached Gardner to help him with the murder plot, but he refused. Instead, Gardner introduced Kennedy into the conspiracy as his substitute.


In August 2005, Skylar was charged with an additional murder for the death of Jon Jarvi. Skylar's cousin, Mike Lewis, was charged as an accomplice in Jon's murder. Lewis told investigators that he went to meet with Skylar the day John was killed. When Lewis arrived at the meeting place, just north of Ensenada, he saw Skylar leading a blindfolded man into a ravine. Lewis said he got scared and drove away.


Apparently, Skylar was a guy who lived by the maxim, "the best defense is a good offense." As he sat in jail, awaiting trial, Skylar hatched another plot to kill two people who could be witnesses against him. Mike Lewis, the cousin and Skylar's father to whom Skylar had mentioned the murder plots.


The plan to kill witnesses was detected and investigated by correctional officers. The resulting conspiracy to commit murder charges were added to Skylar's pile.


Trial

Skylar, Jennifer, and Kennedy all had separate trials. Even with a mountain of evidence against them, it was Machian testifying in every trial that sealed their fates.


Machain was the only one of the conspirators who ever spoke publicly about what happened that faithful day on the decks of the Well Deserved. His testimony matched the physical and circumstantial evidence in a way that was difficult for the defenses to dispute effectively.

After nearly four years awaiting trial, the group's ringleader, Skylar Deleon was convicted of all three murders in October 2008. He was sentenced to death on a April 10th, 2009. Skylar is on death row at Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, California.


John Kennedy considered the muscle that enabled the group to overpower Tom Hawks was convicted of the murders and sentenced to die. He is currently on death row at San Quentin Prison.


Jennifer Deleon was given two life sentences without parole. She is currently housed at Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, California. She divorced Skylar while awaiting trial.


Myron Gardner was convicted of accessory to murder. He spent more than five years in jail awaiting trial. He was released with time served. Gardner maintained that he didn't know Skylar intended to kill the Hawks. He thought he was referring Kennedy for an armed robbery plan.


Alonzo Machain's cooperation with the prosecution was essential to achieving justice. For this, Machain received a relatively lenient sentence of 20 years. He is currently housed at California Rehabilitation Center in Riverside, California.


Discussion

Marcy: To start off the discussion, Mark, tell us why you picked this particular crime?

Mark: Yeah, this crime caught my attention a long time ago when it happened because of things we were doing in our lives. We had a kind of community connection with the Hawks.

Marcy: The cruising community?

Mark: Yes. For our listener, there's a community of small boat owners who travel the oceans. Some of them hopping from country to country. The communities like RV enthusiasts only ocean going. Back in the early two thousand, we went to Seward, Alaska, and learned how to operate sailboats that were, say, you know, 40 feet long. They were outfitted like an RV with sleeping cabins and water storage tanks. Everything you need to travel long distances along coast, or even across the ocean.

Marcy: That's the simple version. It can get pretty involved, navigation and weather, boat systems, and sailing blue water. And it's also pretty expensive.

Mark: You hear the word yacht, and you think everybody's gonna be rich. Middle-class people sail as cruisers, but buying a boat that's capable of blue water sailing can cost as much as a house or even more. We took the classes because we're interested in bareboat rentals. If you're bareboat certified, you can travel and rent a boat. It's a popular thing to do in the Caribbean and in the Mediterranean.

Marcy: We did a lot of reading back then of books of people that sold everything and sailed off across the oceans. But we knew about the Hawks specifically because we subscribed to a magazine called Latitudes and Attitudes. Right?

Mark: Yeah, like you said, it was a good escape, and it was a good family activity. But that magazine published inspirational stories for people like us. I'm sure most of the people that were reading it hadn't set sail, but they were reading about people who had, and that magazine, published inspirational stories, a la retiring and cruising the Mexican coastline, which was Tom's first story. And other stories involved like how to live on a boat. how to get your clothes washed, how to use rainwater, and Tom's story like keeping fit while cruising. People like us read it because it was an escape from our everyday lives. and also had a practical application element.

Marcy: How did you hear that the Hawks were missing?

Mark: That was weird. It was a convergence of my personal life and my professional life. I was in my department squad room. and that locate for them, that they were missing was, read during our briefing as BOLO information, which is be on the lookout information. The Hawks had been reported missing in Southern California, but someone on an Alaska airlines flight to Anchorage was sure that the Hawks had been sitting next to them on the flight. Obviously, that report was an error, but it got my attention, and I recognized who the Hawks were from the Latitudes and Attitudes magazine. And so I followed the case closely after that.

Marcy: Why do you think the Hawks were targeted?

Mark: I think it was a combination of Skylar's interest and he felt like he could get away with the crime. Skylar was a certified diver, and he told people he was interested in starting a dive business. And the Well Deserved was a good boat for that. It was big enough to be comfortable for groups. And I think that Skylar thought he could get away with it because he knew the cruising community. There's a transient nature. People are in port one day and out to sea the next. This creates an expectation with friends and family that there might be long periods of time with little or no contact.

And this was true of the Hawks. Even with the close contacts they had, some of their friends and family, when heard they were missing, assumed they just went off somewhere traveling. I think Skylar counted on this uncertainty to delay investigation and mask the crime.

In my opinion, one of the stupid mistakes Skylar made was immediately bringing the boat back to Newport. There are tens of thousands of boats in Southern California. If they had just moved the boat somewhere else, stored it somewhere else or, or even moored it somewhere else, the Hawks murder would've remained a missing person's case for a whole lot longer.

Marcy: Do you think this would've gone better for Skylar if he had picked different victims?

Mark: Yes. Imagine if they had targeted a couple from Texas or from England who didn't have strong local ties, the investigation, everything would've taken longer to get rolling.

I've said this before time causes a lack of clarity in an investigation. The fact that the Hawks had many friends and family who were in regular contact with them probably saved the investigation. It also didn't hurt that Tom Hawks' brother was prominent in Southern California law enforcement.

One of the reports I read said that officers from Jim Hawks' old department in the city of Carlsbad started working in the missing person's case immediately and passed any information off they had to the Newport investigators as they got going.

Marcy: I'm a little surprised when you consider Tom Hawks' line of work that there wasn't more caution in vetting the buyers. On the day of the sea trial, two completely new guys just appeared. It seems like it was a bad idea to go out with so many unknowns.

Mark: Thinking about this, I struggle with this myself. Tom Hawks was a retired probation officer, which means he's familiar with the evil humans can do to one another. The cop of me wants to say, how can he not have vetted these people better?

On the other hand, I recognize my profession has made me guarded and suspicious by nature. And that's not something I like about myself. And it's something that somebody like Tom Hawks might have tried to shed in retirement. Especially in the cruising community, where you're constantly traveling and meeting new people. In fact, at times, you're depending on the goodwill of others in the community. A guarded and suspicious worldview is problematic.

Another intangible factor here is that Skylar was obviously a charismatic and persuasive person. The port captain, Carter Ford, said that Tom had almost a fatherly look towards Skylar, and he liked the idea of selling the boat to the nice young guy with the growing family. The other thing is that Tom was trying to unload a boat worth almost half a million dollars. In Alabama, a 25-year-old buyer might seem unlikely, but in Los Angeles, where there are many young wealthy people, it might not have seemed that suspicious. But I do think that a background check would've saved their lives. After all, Skylar was on felony probation, which would've set alarm bells off for Tom.

Marcy: It seems like many people bought a lot of the bullshit that Skylar was selling. He must have been pretty charismatic.

Mark: I think so. And he ruined a lot of lives using that. Set aside the Hawks. Skylar got Jon Jarvi, a 45-year-old man to hand him $50,000 in cash. He got his wife and two accomplices to follow him into an enterprise that essentially ended their lives.

Skylar had a couple local journalists he liked who met him to do some one-on-one interviews. They gave perspective that some of the huge media productions couldn't. Those journalists indicated that Skylar, when one-on-one, played a vulnerable, almost childlike persona that he used to manipulate and tried to get people on his side. Over the course of several interviews, they realized he was utterly narcissistic and remorseless. The only thing he was sorry about was getting caught.

When the Newport detectives first contacted Skylar, the Sergeant said he had trouble believing that Skylar was lying to him. It wasn't until much more was known that the Sergeant was convinced that Skylar was actually the ringleader. So I think he must have had some magnetic personality skills.

Marcy: Yeah. But he was still an idiot. It kills me that he thought he was gonna get away with all this. He just kept plotting murder after murder, like a hen laying eggs.

Mark: I think he had the same kind of hubris we saw in the Martin case, suspects who way overestimate their own skills, whether that skill is intellect or charm, and they way underestimate law enforcement's ability to weave evidence together into coherent solution. I think that Skylar thought he was building enough problems into his plots: a killing in Mexico, two offshore killings where bodies would never be discovered. He thought law enforcement would be stymied and just move on. You know, who I think the real idiot was?

Marcy: Who?

Mark: Jennifer, at a certain point after Skylar was arrested and Machain fled to Mexico, investigators assessed who was most likely to tell them exactly what happened on the boat, and because they knew Jennifer was not physically present for the murder, she was the most palatable of the conspirators to offer a deal.

So she was offered immunity to testify. And what did she do?

Marcy: She told the cops to go pound sand and raised a stink with local media.

Mark: Yeah. Knowing what the conspirators and her had done, knowing their whole ship was going down. She was too stupid to make an immunity deal. Instead, she protested her way right into two consecutive life sentences.

Marcy: Let's just briefly touch on why Skylar is housed at the women's prison in California.

Mark: In 2019, Skylar legally changed gender to female.

Marcy: I wanna talk about what happened on the boat. Once they were offshore on the sea trial, do you think that there was anything that the Hawks could have done to change the outcome?

Mark: I think there's a possibility Tom Hawks might have overpowered Kennedy and Skylar in the initial fight. Short of accessing a firearm, I don't think there's much that could be done. The assailants had the advantage of surprise and pre-planning. There's only so much a guy can do with multiple assailants and in tight quarters. The bad guys brought along stun guns, which I think could have been an advantage for Tom in the fight.

Marcy: Why would that be an advantage for Tom?

Mark: Okay, so tasers work by shooting out two probes that stick into the Target's flesh. When the electricity is sent between the two probes, it locks up muscles in a circuit. Say you could place a probe on a person. You'd want one as high as possible, say like the upper chest or the upper arm, the other you'd want low, like in the shin or calf. That placement, if you can get it with your taser, creates a situation where all the muscles in between those two probes, basically the entirety of the body, lock up and it, renders a person unable to move.

But with the stun guns the suspects had, they don't function like that. The points on a stun gun are less than two inches apart. So it really doesn't lock up a muscle. What it does is just causes pain. When we first started using tasers at my police department, officers realized really fast that good probe deployment was effective in subduing a combative subject. But using a taser same thing with a stun gun, in what's called drive stunt mode, which is using a taser like a stunt gun that just hurts and it pisses people off. So the advantage Tom would've had with these bad guys is they probably had an unrealistic expectation of the stun gun's efficacy.

I know this from experience having a taser or stun gun occupying one hand keeps the hand from you being able to use it in striking or grappling.

Marcy: I think that Jackie Hawks leaving the S off her signature on the power of attorney was an intentional signal.

Mark: Yeah, I do too. It's one of those things that show her fighting spirit. When you can't do much, you do what you can.

Marcy: Let's talk about Jon Jarvi's murder. It seems like Skylar almost got away with it.

Yeah. In some ways, John Jarvi murder is an example of law enforcement at its worst and at its best at its worst; you have the maximum federal police who could have investigated in charge of this very solvable murder.

Mark: And it's, doesn't seem like they did much. I have experienced Mexican police apathy in my career. I was a supervisor of our sexual assault unit. And we had a young woman report that a security guard had raped her at a large resort in Mexico. The woman wasn't was reporting this to me in Anchorage. When the victim came in, I spoke with her and her mother. I followed that meeting up by contacting the state department and was assigned a counselor officer for contact. When I did contact that consular officer, I gave them details of the alleged crime, and his job as liaison was to contact the local police cuz he was down in Mexico, and those police would have jurisdiction. The next day, the consular guy called me back, and he relayed that the Mexican police insisted that a report could only be filed by the victim, and she had to be physically present at the police station. Keep in mind, we're in Alaska. When I told the victim this, she said she never wanted to go to Mexico again, and I guess that's understandable. What was disturbing to me was the Mexican authorities were utterly disinterested in information surrounding the sexual assault, not even for an information report, like in case the security guard was victimizing other women.

So back to Jon's murder. Mexican police dropped the ball. But what they did write was that they contacted LAPD's Interpol liaison. LAPD didn't really move the case forward either. They've got their own fish to fry, and Jon's death wasn't really their responsibility. The big positive here is that LAPD kept the records and linked Jon Jarvi's murder to the name Skylar so that, when Newport called LAPD, they had that link and that the Newport detectives could exploit it.

That's the big win here. The federalis contacted LAPD. LAPD eventually passed the ball to Newport detectives, and that kind of communication is essential for solving crimes like this.

Marcy: What do you think about Skylar committing a murder in Mexico while out of prison on furlough for the day?

Mark: Yeah, it's nice when the system works, but the Seal Beach facility failed in several ways. First, by law, Skylar wasn't even eligible for furlough release program because when he committed his original crime, he was carrying a gun, and that disqualified him. And them letting him out was simply an administrative error. Like somebody forgot to check a box. Try telling that to Jon Jarvi's mother. Skylar was out because nobody checked the box, and he killed your son. Second, the whole idea behind the furlough release was to allow an inmate to keep a job they could work during the day and return to jail at night. Skylar didn't even have a job to be furloughed to. And the supervision was so loose that he knew he could return pretty much whenever when he got back from Mexico. So the Seal Beach prison has since closed his doors because of this case and others like it.

Marcy: You had mentioned that it is unknown precisely what the investment opportunity was that Skylar used to entice Jon. How can you be sure it's drugs?

Mark: Yes. My drug investigation experience. Here's my short list of factors. Jon had a big drug problem in the past. He was a guy who liked get-rich-quick schemes. He got $50,000 in cash. Most legitimate investments aren't paid for in this way. Skylar had a drug pedigree. His father went to federal prison for smuggling. When pressed by investigators about his payment for the Well Deserved, Skylar immediately threw down drug money laundering. I think it was because that was the answer he planned to give the cops following Jon's murder. He just recycled it for the Hawks.

Marcy: How could Jon's murder be charged by the state of California versus in Mexico?

Mark: Yeah, I looked at that; the media reports say Skylar was charged with murder for profit under California penal code. As best I can tell because it was planned and elements of the crime happened in California state, that's how they were able to charge that. It looks like most murders by US citizens who kill abroad are either handled by that foreign country or are charged under the federal criminal code.

One recent case like that comes to mind is where the father allegedly took his two young kids from California to Mexico, where he murdered them in some kind of crazy Q-ANON conspiracy thing. That guy was brought back to California and charged under federal law.

Marcy: Why did the Newport detectives work Jon's murder case? Why not just focus on the Hawks?

Mark: Before Machain made a deal and gave everything up. The fate of the Hawks case was less certain. In court, you have to prove who did what beyond a reasonable doubt. With no one who survived the sea trial talking and no bodies recovered, who knows what kind of BS defense attorneys could weave.

Jon's murder case was different. It was a simple, connected dots. There was plenty of physical and circumstantial evidence to achieve a conviction. So why not work Jon's murder? It's certainly worthy as a standalone case and as insurance that Skylar will never kill again

Marcy: In the narrative, you had Tom tell Jackie, "it's okay. we're going to be together." Can you tell me where that came from?

Mark: All of the details about what happened during the sea trial portion of the narrative were taken directly from what Machain said. Now, he didn't say it like I wrote it, but that is one of the things that Machain said that Tom said.

Marcy: President Kennedy said, "We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it's to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came. That's what Tom and Jackie Hawks did. They loved the ocean. And they went back from whence they came together.


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