Tom and Jackie Hawks had spent their lives working and were ready to retire and spend more time with their newborn grandson when they were brutally murdered on their 55-foot yacht, the Well Deserved.
Four people were sentenced to time behind bars in their murder. The couple went missing and their bodies were never found after they took Skylar Deleon, Alonso Machain and John Kennedy on a test run of the boat November 15, 2004. Deleon’s wife, Jennifer Henderson, was also convicted in the murder. Deleon and Kennedy were sentenced to death, but remain on death row. Deleon and Henderson are no longer married. Deleon is transgender and now identifies as a woman. Read more about Deleon’s life now here and more about Henderson here.
ABC 20/20 is revisiting the case on an encore episode airing Friday, July 23, 2021 at 9 p.m. Eastern time.
Thomas and Jackie Hawks are still listed as missing people by the California Office of the Attorney General since their bodies were never recovered. The details of their murders are both gruesome and heartbreaking.
Even the seasoned investigating officer, Newport Beach Det. Sgt. Dave Byington, described feeling unsettled being on the yacht years later in an interview with CBS News.
“This is probably the thirtieth time I’ve been on this vessel and I don’t like it,” the now-retired detective told 48 Hours Mystery correspondent Maureen Maher in 2010. “I get the heebie jeebies on this boat. I just don’t feel comfortable on it. You start to think about – imagine, only try to imagine what they experienced, and it’s too horrific. The boat’s under way, It’s nighttime. It’s cold.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Tom & Jackie Hawks Were Tied to an Anchor & Tossed Overboard Alive
Thomas and Jackie Hawks met a brutal end as they were taking a step toward reaching their next goals in life. They were selling their 55-foot yacht, the Well Deserved, which had served as their home, and planned to move permanently ashore so they could spend time with their newborn grandson.
Skylar Deleon told the couple of plans to buy the boat. Deleon introduced the couple to pregnant wife Jennifer Henderson and their 2-year-old daughter, which put the couple at ease. They were on a test run of the boat, along with Alonso Machain and John Kennedy when they were killed. All four were convicted in the case.
“The couple begged for their lives, according to one witness, but they were tied to a 65-pound anchor,” the Orange County Register reported. “Still alive, they were thrown into the water. Their bodies were never recovered.”
Many of the details known about the murder came from Machain’s testimony at Deleon’s trial. Machain had befriended Deleon while serving time for burglary. Kennedy was a member of the Long Beach Insane Crips gang who had served time for attempted murder. Deleon and Kennedy met through an intermediary, who arranged for Deleon to meet and hire Kennedy that same day at a liquor store in Long Beach, California, according to ABC News. Kennedy was asked to pose as Deleon’s accountant.
Tom Hawks was overpowered by the group after a fierce struggle and eventually handcuffed. He was Tasered multiple times before he could be subdued. Machain was tasked with retraining Jackie Hawks, who also fought back. Their eyes and mouths were taped shut, and they were tied together and handcuffed on a bed. Eventually, they were forced to sign sales documents for the yacht.
Jackie Hawks begged for their lives, saying they wanted to live and spend time with their new grandson. She was screaming, scared and shaking, Machain testified, according to news articles at the time.
“She was overwhelmed with what was going on,” Machain said. “[Tom] was calm. … She screams at Skylar that, ‘We trusted you and your wife came over. … You had your …little girl over. Why are you doing this?'”
Hawks comforted his wife by stroking her hand, Machain testified.
Machain testified he watched as Deleon grabbed an anchor, tied the couple to it and brought them to the back of the boat.
Tom Hawks knocked Deleon off balance, but it was too late to save them.
“At that point, Machain said, Deleon ‘just pushed them’ off the side of the boat. Tied to an anchor Tom and Jackie Hawks plunged to their death in the icy cold water, drowning at sea,” ABC News reported. “Skylar Deleon chose an area of the Pacific Ocean that is particularly deep and the bodies were never recovered. He then turned the boat around and headed back to port.”
Tom Hawks Nearly Overpowered the Murderers Before He & His Wife Were Killed & Stroked his Wife’s Hand to Comfort Her
Tom Hawks did not go down without a fight. The 57-year-old man was a one-time wrestling champion who took pride in his physical fitness. He nearly fought off three men to save himself and his wife, according to trial testimony reported by ABC News in 2009.
“Once they were all out at sea, [Orange County Prosecutor Matt] Murphy said the group Tasered Tom Hawks several times and then handcuffed him,” ABC News reported. “Tom Hawks, a champion wrestler in college and a physical fitness buff, had made it extremely difficult for the men to overpower him. But after a fierce struggle, Tom Hawks was unable to overcome the surprise attack. Tragically, he was almost able to save the lives of his wife and himself, but was eventually overpowered.”
Jackie Hawks, too, fought back for her life. Machain was tasked with restraining her.
“So then I heard a loud … Thumps, you know, like up against the wall,” said Machain, according to ABC News. “She was fighting. She was trying to hold me back.”
Jackie Hawks pleaded for their lives, while Tom Hawks comforted her. Machain recalled seeing Tom Hawks stroking his wife’s hand to comfort her.
After they were forced to sign sales documents, Deleon grabbed an anchor, tied Jackie Hawks and Tom Hawks to the anchor, and brought them to the back of the boat. It was then that Tom Hawks briefly overpowered his captors.
“‘Then Mr. Hawks was able to lift his leg somehow and he literally tossed Skylar off his feet, knocked him on his butt … and right behind him [Kennedy] just takes a big swing at the side of his head and just, I’m pretty sure, he knocked him out,'” Machain testified, according to ABC News. “It was a final act of defiance by the powerful captain of the Well-Deserved.”
Then, Deleon pushed them off the yacht and into the icy waters. He picked a part of the Pacific Ocean that was particularly deep, and their bodies were never found.
Tom and Jackie Hawks were married in 1989. Tom Hawks’ first marriage ended in an amicable divorce, according to CBS News. Tom and Jackie Hawks met at a chili cook-off in 1986. Tom Hawks already had two sons from his first marriage, Ryan and Matt Hawks. The boys, who were in elementary school at the time, looked to Jackie Hawks as a second mother.
Ryan Hawks recalled in an interview with CBS News his father intended to live life to the fullest, and often reminded his boys that life is short.
“He said, ‘Life’s too short, and it’s my life, this is our time, and I feel if I hesitate, then it would just go by and I’ll miss it,'” Ryan Hawks said.