SANTA ANA, Calif. — A man convicted of murdering an Arizona couple by tying them to an anchor and throwing them overboard from their yacht off Southern California was sentenced to death Friday.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Frank F. Fasel imposed the sentence recommended by the jury that convicted Skylar Deleon, 29, of killing Tom and Jackie Hawks of Prescott, Ariz. DeLeon was also convicted in the 2003 killing of Jon Jarvi, an Anaheim man he met on a work furlough program.
"It is the judgment and order of this court you shall suffer the death penalty as to each count," Fasel said, adding that he decided to impose the penalty partly because of the horrific nature of the murders.
Prosecutors said Deleon, of Long Beach, feigned interest in buying the couple's nearly half-million-dollar yacht and threw them overboard during a test cruise out of Newport Harbor in 2004. The Hawkses' bodies were never found.
They said Deleon and his then-wife, Jennifer Henderson, crafted the plan to kill the Hawkses to steal their boat and savings. After the yacht killings, prosecutors said, Deleon and Henderson scrubbed the boat clean with bleach wipes.
"It is difficult to imagine a case where it's more cold-blooded and calculated than this series of murders," prosecutor Matt Murphy said after the sentencing. "I can't imagine a situation that is more deserving of the ultimate punishment."
Defense attorney Gary Pohlson had asked jurors to spare his client's life, arguing that Deleon was abused by a drug-dealing father who left him predisposed to violence. He declined to comment after the sentencing. Deleon's case will automatically go to an appeal.
Henderson was convicted in 2006 of murder and murder for financial gain and was sentenced to two terms of life in prison without parole. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, one of two men accused of helping Deleon in the plot, was also convicted in the murders earlier this year and a jury has recommended the death penalty when he is sentenced in May.
Murder charges against Myron Gardner, the other man, were dismissed when he pleaded guilty last month to accessory after the fact. Alonso Machain, who testified that he and Kennedy were on the boat with Deleon on the day of the killings, also faced murder charges.
Ryan Hawks, Tom Hawks's son, said he hoped that Deleon's two children would never know what their father did or that he used his young daughter to help win the trust of the Arizona couple.
"No one wants to know they were used as decoys or fakes to murder my parents," Hawks said after the sentencing.