Plot to kill a witness alleged

Marisa O'Neil

At least one suspect in the murder of a retired Newport Beach couple

was also plotting to kill a witness in the case, a prosecutor said in

court Friday.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Matt Murphy brought up the plot during a

pretrial hearing for five people suspected of conspiring to kill Tom

and Jackie Hawks on their yacht. During the hearing, he asked the

judge to remind defense attorneys to be careful with witness

information that may be included in the volumes of paperwork for the


"There has already been a plot by at least one of these defendants

to kill a witness," Murphy told the judge.

Murphy said outside the courtroom that he could not discuss the

details of the alleged plot or who was involved. In their haste to

prepare the case, names or addresses of witnesses may have made it

into discovery documents provided to defense attorneys, he said.

Defense attorneys cannot provide their clients with such

information, he said.

Winston McKesson, attorney for defendant John Fitzgerald Kennedy,

said that was the first he'd heard of any such plot.

"Discovery's coming slowly," he said outside the courtroom. "I've

reviewed 500 pages and I've not seen anything."

Pico Rivera resident Alonso Machain, 21, and Long Beach residents

Kennedy, 39, Myron Sandora Gardner, 41, Skylar DeLeon, 25, and his

23-year-old wife, Jennifer Henderson-DeLeon are charged with killing

the Hawkses for financial gain. All face special circumstance

allegations that make them subject to the death penalty.

Police believe Tom Hawks, 57, and Jackie Hawks, 47, took one or

more of the suspects, who were posing as potential buyers, on a

November test-drive on their 55-foot cabin cruiser "Well Deserved."

The retired couple were then overpowered, handcuffed, weighted down

and thrown overboard while alive, authorities believe.

Their bodies have not been found.

DeLeon, Machain and Gardner were charged with their murders in

March and the other two suspects were arrested shortly afterward.

Until Friday, defense attorneys were pushing for a speedy trial.

But at Friday's court appearance, four of the five attorneys opted to

waive their rights to a speedy trial, giving them more time to review

more than 600 pages of discovery recently filed in the case.

Henderson-DeLeon's attorney, Michael Molfetta, objected to the

request, but the judge rescheduled the pretrial hearing for May 27.

"There's no reason to waive time," Molfetta said outside the


Henderson-DeLeon's parents are caring for her children, a

2-month-old boy and nearly 2-year-old girl, while she's in jail.

Molfetta said last week that he would ask for a separate trial for

his client. The defendants will have to stay together at least until

after a preliminary hearing, which would come after the pretrial

hearing, Murphy said.

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