Thomas and Jackie Hawks Murders: How Did They Die? Who Killed Them?

Image Credit: True Crime Daily

When a pair of the adventure-loving couple went missing for several days, it raised the alarm with friends and family members who were expecting to see them soon. Thomas and Jackie’s closest acquaintances were worried that something bad had happened to them. They turned to the police for help. What the police found subsequently will go down as one of the most brutal and spine-chilling crimes in American criminal history. The crime has been covered by several true-crime features and podcasts, including ABC’s ‘20/20’ under the episode titled ‘Overboard.’ The harrowing details of the crime have left us shocked and wanting to know more. We indulged in a little investigation of our own to find out more about this crime.

How Did Thomas and Jackie Hawks Die?

57-year-old Thomas Hawks and his 47-year-old wife, Jackie Hawks, were living the dream retired life. Thomas and Jackie were described as a very happy, healthy, and athletic couple who had worked hard all their life to fulfill their early retirement aspirations, living on adventures and whims of traveling. Tom worked as a Yavapai County deputy probation officer in Arizona, and his wife, Jackie, was stepmother to his two sons from a previous marriage. Shortly before commencing his retirement from his job, in August 2001, the Hawks couple sold their house and shifted to a yacht, referred to as their dreamboat. The yacht moored in Long Beach, named “Well Deserved,” had luxurious interiors with two decks, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a gallery.

Tom indulged himself in renovating the yacht, adding the latest technology and features to the yacht to make it suitable for long voyages. Tom and Jackie were known to be dedicated fitness buffs, with strict gym regimes that the two of them followed religiously. According to his sons, Ryan and Matt, Tom had also made a name for himself in the Arizona arm-wrestling circle. Tom and Jackie met during a chili cookoff and married in 1989. Tom was known for having a passion for boating. Hence, soon after the couple bought “Well Deserved,” they pulled out of Long Beach in 2002 and set sail on an almost two-year-long cruise down the coast of Baja California, around Cabo San Lucas, and into the Sea of Cortez, stopping in Baja and the Mexican mainland.

The Hawks decided to call their cruise to a rather wonderful end when they were blessed with a grandson back in Arizona. The proud and happy grandparents, eager to spend their time with the little boy, put up their adored yacht “Well Deserved” for sale. They decided to sell the yacht themselves rather than heftily commissioning a yacht broker to do so.  The Yacht advertisement in ‘Yachting World Magazine’ asked $435,000 in exchange for the fastidiously maintained “Well Deserved.”

On November 15, 2004, the couple boarded their precious ship to embark on the last trip to Santa Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles, California, to commemorate the yacht’s sale. They had finally found a buyer for “Well Deserved,” and they had informed their family of the upcoming sale, which was to take place within a few days. After this, they disappeared. The yacht was found in its usual spot in Newport Beach by the family the next day. However, the couple’s car and the couple were nowhere to be found.

The family was sure that the person to have last seen the Hawks was the buyer. Jim Hawks, Tom’s brother, also a retired police officer, left his card with his number on the yacht, hoping they would contact him. Before leaving the card, he and the Hawkses’ friend Carter Ford surveyed the yacht to find any signs. They smelled trouble as soon as Ford observed the 11-foot dinghy that ferried Tom and Jackie between the Well Deserved and Balboa Peninsula was tied sloppily to the dock. On the yacht, they noticed similar imperfections that were not characteristic of the Hawkses, for example, a towel hanging out of a porthole. On the next day, a lady called Jennifer Deleon called Jim and told him, she and her husband had paid for the boat in cash.

When there was reportedly no activity on the Hawks’ bank accounts, the family knew that something wasn’t sitting right. It was eventually revealed that Skyler Deleon and her then-wife Jennifer Deleon had entrapped the Hawkses in a heinous plan that led the Hawkses to their death.

A witness to the crime who testified against Skylar Deleon detailed the events leading up to Jackie and Thomas Hawks’ death. The yacht’s buyer had reportedly expressed a willingness to test the yacht before buying it by taking it out to the sea. The Hawkses agreed after Skylar Deleon managed to create a good impression of herself on them by bringing in her former pregnant wife Jennifer Deleon and their daughter. On the day of their last trip onboard “Well Deserved,” the Hawkses received their buyer on the yacht along with two other men, one of whom Skylar had claimed to be her accountant. Once they set sail and were on waters, Jackie and Tom were ambushed by Skylar and her two companions, who became Alonso Machain (who later testified against Skylar) and a notorious gang member John Fitzgerald Kennedy respectively. Skylar managed to make the couple hand over the ownership of their yacht by making them sign attorney papers and promised them mercy if they cooperated, according to Machain’s testimony.

However, the couple was handcuffed with their mouths and eyes shut, covered by duct tape, and then kept under watch for several hours. Alonso Machain was given the responsibility to “baby-sit” them, following which the couple was then tied to an anchor and “yanked” over the yacht and into the Pacific Ocean. Their bodies have not been recovered to this day.

Who Killed Tom and Jackie Hawks?

The primary convicts in the conspiracy and murder of Thomas and Jackie Hawks are Skylar Deleon, her wife Jennifer Deleon, Alonso Machain, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, an Insane Crips Gang member, and Myron Sandora Gardner, also a member of the Insane Crips Gang who had introduced Skylar to Kennedy.

The family filed a missing-persons report approximately two weeks after they went missing. An investigation into the missing couple was fueled by a sudden activity in the couple’s bank accounts, three weeks after their disappearance. The Deleons, who were living out of Jennifer’s parents’ garage in Long Beach at the time, were trying to gain access to the Hawks’ financial resources. The investigators found out more about Skylar, who turned out to be on probation for an armed robbery. Besides, documents suggested that Hawkses had handed him over their power of attorney, which seemed unrealistic.

When the police investigated the interiors of the “Well Deserved,” they came across a receipt from Target dated two days after friends say the couple had taken their prospective buyers on a trial trip. Newport Beach Detective Sgt, Dave Byington said, “If I was going to kill somebody, I’d have my clean kit. And it would be bags to get rid of the evidence, bleach to wipe down the scene, and maybe, if I had a conscience, some Tums to settle my stomach after killing some poor people.” The police then found the SUV the Hawkes owned in Ensenada, Mexico, at a mobile home.

The Mexican authorities got in touch with the homeowner, who said they did not know the Hawkses and that the car was given to him by his friend, Skylar Deleon. In December 2004, Skylar Deleon was arrested on money laundering charges, mostly based on the fact that he had previously told the police that the payment for the yacht to the Hawkses, of about $400,000, had been made in cash. But the investigators kept looking into the Hawkses’ murder. They found the Hawkses’ laptop and their video camera at Deleon’s home. The videocamera which initially had films of the Hawkses’ travel, suddenly cut off to Deleons celebrating Thanksgiving with their family.

Machain had turned himself in, and the police arrested Kennedy later. In 2006, Jennifer Deleon, previously arrested in connection to the murder, was also convicted of the murders of Tom and Jackie Hawks and was later sentenced to two consecutive life imprisonments without the possibility of parole in 2007. Skylar and John Kennedy were sentenced to death in April 2009 and May 2009, respectively. Machain was sentenced to 20 years in prison in June 2009.

Read More: Where Are Skylar Deleon and Jennifer Deleon Now?