In 2004, Tom and Jackie Hawks were on top of the world. The hard-working, loving couple, was realizing the fruits of their labor and enjoying an early retirement. The pair spent a few years traveling on their luxurious yacht, before opting to return to land for the next portion of their life together. Suddenly though, Tom and Jackie fell off the grid, worrying friends and family. The reality of what happened to the couple was worse than anyone who knew them could have imagined.
The Couple Planned to Move to Arizona, Then Vanished
In Mid-November in 2004, the Hawkses put their yacht, the aptly-named Well Deserved, up for sale. After the birth of their first grandchild, the couple was headed to Arizona for some land-locked living. They indicated to family and friends that a buyer had been found for Well Deserved and then, nothing. They stopped returning calls, and seemed to have disappeared.
Oxygen reports, “Family and friends wondered if the Hawkses had possibly taken an impromptu voyage as a celebratory least hurrah, but it soon became clear something was amiss. Jim Hawks, a former police chief in nearby Carlsbad and Tom’s older brother, called the authorities, according to the outlet. Officers from Carlsbad and Newport Beach police departments got busy on the missing persons case.
The search began at the couple’s boat, and the discovery of what could have been a bloody partial fingerprint on the Hawks’ yacht gave authorities probable cause to enter the vessel and search for clues.
No clear evidence emerged, however. Crime Scene Investigation analysis revealed that the suspected partial bloody fingerprint was actually rust.”
The Well Deserved Lead to Clues
With no obvious forensics evidence, baffled detectives turned to the sale of the yacht to see if they could find any answers. Documents showed the yacht’s new owners to be Skylar and Jennifer Deleon. Skylar was a former child star, appearing in the TV series, “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers,” and wife Jennifer was pregnant with their second child.
The couple lived with Jennifer’s parents in Long Beach, California, where detectives questioned them on the purchase of the Well Deserved. Initially, the couple claimed the money for the purchase came from money leftover from Skylar’s acting days. Soon, however, Skylar admitted to something much more bizarre. Skylar claimed to be involved in large-scale drug trafficking, which authorities had not been expecting.
Authorities, stunned by Skylar’s confessions, set them aside and stayed focused on the case. They received a small break a few weeks later. Three weeks after the Hawkses disappeared, there was activity on their bank account; the Deleons were trying to access funds. About the same time investigators became aware that Skylar had been arrested for armed robbery, they discovered that the Hawks couple had signed their power of attorney over to to the Deleons. Skylar claimed it was because the couple was going through the Deleons to purchase a vacation home, but investigators were enormously skeptical. Inconsistencies with Jackie’s signature led them to dig deeper.
Tom and Jackie’s Car is Found
In Mid-December, just as detectives were despairing of finding any solid evidence, another break in the case. Tom and Jackie’s car was found in Mexico. The person who possessed the car said it was a gift from the Deleons, and forensic evidence tied the couple to Tom and Jackie’s car.
Tying the Case Together
The car tied pieces of evidence together and helped investigators solve the mystery of Tom and Jackie’s disappearance. Per Oxygen, “Inspecting the car for evidence became an urgent priority. Skylar had insisted during police interviews that he’d never been in the Hawks’ car. DNA evidence could prove otherwise.
While awaiting that proof, detectives learned from Skylar’s probation office that the former child actor requested permission to leave the country for work.
Investigators needed to arrest Deleon, and luckily, they had a reason to in their back pocket: his admission of money laundering. They arrested Skylar at his Long Beach residence. Searching the premises, police found personal papers, IDs, videotapes, and a laptop that all belonged to Tom and Jackie Hawks.
Any hope the Hawkses were alive died right there,’ [Newport Beach Police Department Det. Sgt. David] Byington told producers [of The Real Murders of Orange County].
Meanwhile, Deleon’s DNA turned up on a dashboard knob of the Hawks’ car.”
From there, investigators questioned Alonso Machain, a friend of the Deleons who tied it all together.
Tom and Jackie Were Killed Horribly
Although one would assume that there’s no pleasant way to be murdered, what happened to Tom and Jackie was exceptionally horrible. Machain tied it all together after investigators struck a bargain with him to admit the truth of what happened to the Hawkses.
According to Oxygen, “…Machain said he was present when the Hawkses were lured out to sea, forced to sign legal documents, and then tossed overboard chained to an anchor.
Skylar had sought help from a Long Beach gang member named John F. Kennedy to help physically subdue the burly Tom Hawks. He passed JFK off as part of his business team. The presence of Jennifer Deleon, a mom with a baby on the way, helped convince the victims there was nothing to fear.
‘She’s as evil as anybody on that boat,’ Byington told producers.
Tom and Jackie Hawks ‘were pulled down 3,500 feet to the bottom of the ocean,’ said former San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Caitlin Rother. ‘They were drowned alive.'”
Those Involved Were Sentenced in 2009
Machain, whose bargain precluded him from the death penalty, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. JFK was sentenced to death.
And the main players, Skylar and Jennifer, were not shown mercy. Jennifer was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Skylar was sentenced to death by injection. However, a moratorium on executions in California stayed the sentence and Skylar continues to languish on death row.
Over the years, Skylar’s mental health has struggled. In 2009, after a long battle with gender dysphoria, Skylar officially came out as transgender. In 2019, she legally changed her name from Skylar Julius Deleon to Skylar Preciosa Deleon. Skylar was at the center of a high-profile case about prisoner’s rights as she fought to be approved for state-funded gender affirming surgery, going so far as trying to cut off her own penis when it was initially denied. After that incident, the state agreed to pay for hormone therapy for Skylar, but not surgery. Skylar continues to act out, occasionally running into doors and walls to cause injury to herself.
Heavy reports that Jackie’s mother is unmoved by Skylar’s plight; “‘Oh my God, I’m sorry, this world has gone to hell in a handbasket. I can’t believe that,’ she said. ‘Why don’t they just put her in the (death chamber) … and do what they said they were going to do? My daughter is gone and she didn’t get to do what she wanted to do with the rest of her life, and Tom, either. Why should (Skylar) get to do what he wants to do?'”