Into the Dark Abyss: The Horrifying Murders of Tom and Jackie Hawks

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Few stories of death at sea are more tragic than that of Tom Hawks and his wife Jackie. What began for them as a simple quest for more time with their new grandson, would evolve into a waking nightmare from which there would be no escape.

In 2002, Tom Hawks was a retired probation officer living in Prescott, Arizona. Fifty-five years old and counting, the father of two grown sons was in the best physical shape of his life, thanks to his love of bodybuilding and general fitness. His children had been teenagers when he married his second wife Jackie who had loved and nurtured the boys as if they were her own.

Tom had worked hard and saved money from early on so that he could retire while he was still young enough to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He and Jackie had used some of their nest egg to buy a yacht, which they aptly named the Well Deserved.

Jackie and Tom Hawks trusted the wrong person and paid with their lives.

Free to do as they pleased, the couple would spend the next two years sailing up and down the California coast, admiring the scenery and basking in each other’s company. For a time, life was as good as it gets.

Just when they thought that things couldn’t get any better, they received word that they were going to be grandparents. Thrilled at the prospect of having a baby to dote on, they decided to sell their home on the water and buy a house near their son Ryan, the expectant father.

In November of 2004, Tom put the Well Deserved up for sale. Given that the vessel was worth nearly half a million dollars, the price tag was steep. Even so, the couple knew that once potential buyers got a look at the impeccable condition of the yacht that had been their pride and joy, they would jump at the chance to call it their own. Unfortunately, the first person to make contact was not at all what they expected.

Skylar Deleon

The Actor

When an interested party identifying himself as *Skylar Deleon met with Tom and Jackie under the pretense of purchasing the yacht, they were skeptical right from the start. Judging by appearances, they doubted that the young man standing before them could afford a used paddleboat, much less a luxury craft worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Picking up on their apprehension, Deleon had bragged that he was an actor who had appeared on the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television series.

An intelligent man who didn’t suffer fools gladly, Tom had been instantly distrustful of the sketchy character who had clearly never brokered a deal in his life. He would have put an end to the entire fiasco then and there had it not been for a weak spot that both he and his wife shared. While they were far too savvy to let themselves be taken in by a two-bit scam artist, they could be persuaded to let their guards down if children were involved. Deleon had found his in.

Sensing that the Hawks didn’t trust him, Deleon introduced them to his pregnant wife Jennifer and their two-year-old daughter. It was at this point that Tom and Jackie — whose hearts melted in the presence of children — unwittingly signed their own death warrants.

Upon learning that Tom had agreed to sell the Well Deserved to Deleon, those closest to him questioned his judgement. Shrugging off their concerns, he assured them that he had met the family and they seemed like decent people. He was confident that everything would work out. He and Jackie had been so taken with them, in fact, that they had waved the customary good faith deposit.

A traditionally prudent man when it came to business matters, Tom had bent over backwards to accommodate the Deleons. Knowing that looks can be deceiving, he had given the young family the benefit of the doubt — an act of kindness that would soon come back to haunt him.

With the sale pretty much in the bag, Tom and Jackie had thrown a farewell party aboard the yacht for their family and friends. Though they had mixed feelings about letting go of the Well Deserved, it had been a joyous occasion overall. At the end of the day, they had a grandbaby to spoil and that was all that mattered.

Skylar and Jennifer Deleon with their daughter.

A Family Affair

On November 15th, the Hawks made arrangements to meet with the buyers to finalize the sale. As part of the closing, at Deleon’s request, they had agreed to take him on a quick run up the coast to prove that the vessel was in perfect working order. Although Jennifer was there for the initial meeting, she declined to join them on the excursion.

Also present that day were John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Alonso Machain, a couple of strong-arms whom Deleon introduced as business associates. Again, even though these men didn’t appear to be legal experts, the Hawks — remembering that there was a young family involved — allowed their emotions to override their doubts. Once everyone was onboard, the group set sail on what would be Tom and Jackie’s final voyage.

As soon as the Well Deserved had cleared the harbor and was out to sea, everything changed. The Hawks were caught off guard when the trio of men suddenly turned on them. Without warning, they jumped Tom, who fought valiantly for his life and that of his wife. His assailants would later say that he had come close to getting the better of them more than once. In the end, they had resorted to using a taser to get him under control.

Once he was subdued, Tom was forced at gunpoint to sign over ownership of the Well Deserved to Deleon. He was also made to give power of attorney to the bit player turned con artist who had used his family as pawns in his twisted plot to steal everything the Hawks had worked so hard to obtain.

After the paperwork was in order, the couple were restrained and laid out on a bed in the cabin. A tearful Jackie had begged for their lives, pleading for the chance to hold her grandson again. Unsurprisingly, her efforts had fallen on deaf ears. Even as the walls closed in around them, she remained incredulous at the unexpected turn of events. The last words she had spoken before tape was placed over her mouth were “We trusted you.”

One of Deleon’s hired thugs would later recall that as they lay bound back-to-back on the bed, he had witnessed Tom stroking his wife’s hand, comforting her in the only way he knew how. It was at that point that tape was wrapped around their eyes, effectively blinding them.

The Hawks, unable to see what was happening, were then led upstairs to the main deck. By then, Tom and Jackie must have known that they wouldn’t be making the trip back to shore. They could identify their abductors’ faces and even knew them by name. They would never see their sons or grandchild again. The nightmare was real.

In the unimaginably cruel moments to come, the couple were taken to the back of the craft and tied to the anchor. In a last-ditch effort to turn things around, Tom had managed to kick Deleon square in the stomach, knocking him off his feet. Kennedy, seeing that the situation was getting out of hand, rushed Tom, hitting him with such force that he was knocked unconscious.

As harrowing as the events of that day had been, they were about to get even worse. Though Tom was unaware of what was about to happen, Jackie wasn’t so lucky. She was forced to endure the ultimate terror alone and fully awake.

The reality of the situation would have hit home when she and her husband, the man she had fallen for at first sight, were thrown overboard into the icy waters of the Pacific. With nothing to do but wait for death, she would have been cognizant of her fate as she was pulled further and further into the ocean deep. Her only crime had been placing her trust in the wrong people.

After the deed was done, the killers busied themselves cleaning the yacht and destroying evidence. Not one of them had given a second thought to Tom and Jackie as they disappeared beneath the surface.

Alonso Machain and John Fitzgerald Kennedy

The Perfect Crime Unravels

A few days passed with no word from the Hawks. Family and friends were concerned but decided to give it a little more time before panicking. It wasn’t until November 26th, when they received word that an unknown individual had attempted to withdraw money from the couple’s bank account, that they began to suspect that something terrible had happened to Tom and Jackie.

When it was discovered that the transaction had originated in Mexico, red flags went up all over the place. Realizing that the time had come to take action, family members contacted the proper authorities and reported them missing.

After Skylar Deleon’s recent dealings with the Hawks came to light, he was brought in for questioning. While he feigned ignorance as to their whereabouts, he admitted to having purchased the Well Deserved and readily produced the bill of sale bearing Tom’s signature.

The way he told it, the exchange had gone off without a hitch. After the money changed hands, Tom and Jackie had wished him well before driving off into the sunset. To back up his claim, he had given them the name of his buddy Alonso Machain who he said had witnessed the entire interaction.

With nothing substantial to hold him on, the most promising suspect in the case was released pending further investigation. Not long afterwards, the Hawks’ car was found abandoned in Mexico. Witnesses who had seen the man driving the vehicle picked Skylar Deleon’s image out of a photo lineup.

A little digging by investigators uncovered that Alonso Machain had fled south of the border shortly after the Hawks’ disappearance. Following an exhaustive search, he was picked up by police in March of 2005. No longer able to run from the truth, he opened up like a floodgate.

Over the next few hours, he laid out every grueling detail of the last day of Tom and Jackie’s lives. Although they had heard disturbing stories in the past, officials could hardly believe the callousness of the killers or the heinous nature of their crimes.

In light of Machain’s confession, an arrest warrant was issued for Skylar Deleon in connection with the deaths of Tom and Jackie Hawks. During his interrogation, he had adamantly denied his accomplice’s claims. When it became apparent that his lies were getting him nowhere, he finally broke down and admitted to abducting and murdering the couple whose trust he had betrayed.


Murder Without Conscience

Deleon had gone on to describe how he had supervised as the Hawks were tethered to an anchor and thrown into the freezing water. The mental torture he had put them through as they faced certain death had never crossed his mind. Even as he recounted the events, he hadn’t been able to muster an ounce of empathy for his victims.

When the discussion turned to motive, as was to be expected, it was all about money. Deleon didn’t have two pennies to rub together so buying the yacht had never actually been an option. Upon meeting the Hawks, he was consumed with envy. It hadn’t mattered to him that they had worked tirelessly in order to achieve financial stability. All he knew was that he wanted what they had, and he was going to get it without lifting a finger.

At the time of the murders, Deleon and his family were living in his in-law’s garage. Jennifer was supporting the family by working as a hairdresser, but money was always tight. Despite the fact that they were barely making ends meet, the couple longed for the finer things in life. Though various aspects of his story would change over the years, Deleon always contended that his wife had been the puppet master in the plot against the Hawks.

The quartet of killers were subsequently rounded up and tried for their roles in the abduction and murder of Tom and Jackie Hawks. John F. Kennedy, who had been a major player due to his size and strength, was found guilty and sentenced to death. As of this writing, he sits on death row in California’s San Quentin Prison.

Alonso Machain accepted a plea deal in exchange for turning state’s evidence. As a result, he will serve twenty years in state prison before being released back into society.

Jennifer Deleon, who was not only the alleged brains behind the scheme but also the bait used to lull the Hawks into a false sense of security, received two life sentences without the possibility of parole. She will spend the remainder of her days in the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla. She filed for, and was granted, a divorce prior to her case going to trial.

Skylar Deleon — actor, scammer, murderer— was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to death by lethal injection. He is currently being housed in San Quentin. Unfortunately, when the end comes, which will more than likely be from old age, he won’t experience a fraction of the terror he inflicted upon his victims.

The bodies of Tom and Jackie Hawks have never been found. In a macabre twist of fate, the ocean they loved in life has now become their eternal resting place.

*Skylar Deleon, though born male, now identifies as female. Just to be clear, masculine pronouns were used in this piece because this transition had not yet taken place at the time of the murders. Since they were still perceived by society as male prior to 2008, they are referred to as such for both chronological accuracy and flow of text.






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