Skylar just stood there, staring blankly, with the same cold expression I imagine he wore when he callously took the lives of three people whose biggest failing in life was to trust him.
On Monday, an Orange County jury took just two hours to deliberate before announcing that Deleon was guilty in the murders of a retired couple, Tom and Jackie Hawks, and the slaying of a former pilot, Jon Peter Jarvi. The details of the crimes, which I recounted in the book Vanished At Sea, are chilling, to say the least.
I remember, when doing press for the book, I often told interviewers that in all my 15 years as acrime reporter, I'd never covered anyone so bereft of humanity as 27-year-old Skylar Deleon. This is a man who, minutes after slitting the throat of one victim, boasted to a relative, "You're dealing with the devil now." Indeed, if evil does exist in this world, it is embodied within the skin of Skylar Deleon and his wife, Jennifer Deleon, 25, who was convicted for her part in the murder in late 2006. The case that got the most attention from the media involved Tom and Jackie Hawks, who turned up missing in November 2004, shortly after posting an ad to sell their home, a 55-foot yacht they called Well Deserved.
Skylar and his young, pregnant wife, posing as buyers, answered the ad. After gaining their trust, Skylar arranged to return to the boat with a few associates to take the Well Deserved for a test ride.
But while at sea, Skylar used a taser to overpower the couple, then handcuffed them and held them at gun point while forcing them to sign a document transferring the boat title and power of attorney to Skylar.
With the help of associates Alonso Machain and John Kennedy, Skylar then tied the couple to one of the boat's anchors and, while Jackie tearfully begged for their lives, dropped the anchor overboard. The couple was hurled overboard and sank to their deaths.
Skylar, an unemployed bit-part actor, and his wife, a hair dresser, insisted they bought the boat and the Hawks drove off to Mexico. The Hawks' loving family knew their relatives—responsible, respectable, outgoing people—would never drop out of touch. They assumed the worst. And that worst was confirmed when accomplice McCain, a guy more dumb and naive than evil, confessed to police.
No less horrific was the death of Jon Jarvi, whom Skylar befriended only to swindle him out of $50,000 in a bogus real-estate deal. Skylar lured Jarvi to Mexico, supposedly to surf and talk over this "deal of a lifetime." But once there, Skylar drove Jarvi down an isolated dirt road, calmly slit his throat, then left him to bleed out, alone, on a deserted roadway.
It took nothing short of heroic investigative efforts on the part of the Newport Beach Police Department to tie the murders back to Skylar and his main accomplice, the innocent-looking Jennifer Deleon, who, at every turn, covered for her husband and lied to the police.
In the end, Skylar and all of his accomplices landed in jail. Jennifer is serving life behind bars. Alonso and another accomplice will probably get reduced sentences for cooperating in the investigation.
But death will surely come for Skylar, and, likely, John Kennedy, who notably kicked Tom off his feet so he would more easily slide off the boat and into the frigid waters that tragic night—then grabbed a rod onboard and fished all the way home. Kennedy, a known Long Beach gang member, will face trial next year.
Skylar's death penalty case begins on Wednesday. You can bet his attorneys will drag out all the details of Skylar's terrible childhood. Basically, his dad was a drug dealer who verbally abused his son. Yeah, his tender years were rough. But I can't imagine that's going to be enough to excuse his sins.
This jury already got it right once. I'm sure they will again.
I couldn't agree more. . . .