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Well Deserved Justice

Updated: Jul 31, 2022


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.