SANTA ANA — In riveting, emotional testimony that had family and friends of Tom and Jackie Hawks weeping during a court break, one of the men accused of killing the couple took the stand Wednesday to detail how he says the Hawkses were killed.
Alonso Machain, with his feet shackled, testified about his part in the slaying of the Newport Beach couple aboard their yacht, Well Deserved.
"I can't tell you how many times I mentally prepared for that moment in my head and how strong we were going to be," Ryan Hawks, Tom Hawks' son, said of the testimony in the trial of Jennifer Henderson-Deleon. "Just to hear in that much detail and from the murderer's mouth, it just really hurt."
Machain, who has been charged with murder and is scheduled to go on trial next year, was called as a prosecution witness against Henderson-Deleon whose trial began this week. Her husband, Skylar Deleon, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy are also scheduled to go on trial next year.
Machain, who has not been offered a deal from the prosecution, first testified how he met Skylar Deleon while working as a state correctional officer — Skylar Deleon was serving time on a work-release program in a Seal Beach jail.
According to Machain's testimony, here's how the Hawkses were killed.
After buying stun guns and handcuffs, Machain and Skylar Deleon met the Hawkses Nov. 6, 2004, the day they planned to kill the couple. Skylar Deleon planned to overtake Tom Hawks while Machain would subdue Jackie Hawks. After checking out the couple before meeting them that day, Skylar Deleon realized Tom Hawks was larger than him. For this reason, while the couple showed Skylar Deleon and Machain around the boat, they decided not to make their move.
"I wasn't going to do anything until Skylar did something," Machain said.
After this meeting with the couple, Skylar Deleon called his wife and asked her to bring their 9-month-old baby to meet Tom and Jackie Hawks "to make Mr. and Mrs. Hawks feel more at ease."
Machain and Skylar Deleon met the couple Nov. 9, 2004, and took the boat out. On Nov. 15, Machain, Kennedy and Skylar Deleon boarded the boat with the couple. Machain fought back tears as his story got closer to the details of the slaying.
Earlier in the day, Machain and Skylar Deleon went to meet a man at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach who was going to help. When he didn't show, Skylar Deleon got on the phone and after a few hours they met with Kennedy.
Kennedy was introduced as Skylar Deleon's accountant. The five went out for a test-run, taking the boat out to sea "where nobody could hear," Machain said. They made small talk and Skylar Deleon was shown more detail about the boat and how to drive it. After Skylar Deleon swam under the boat to get a better look, and after Jackie Hawks made a call and said she and her husband were "out with the couple," the three men began the process of overpowering Tom and Jackie Hawks.
As Jackie Hawks stood, cornered in the kitchen, Kennedy put her husband in a chokehold.
"I realized I had to act," Machain said.
Machain pulled out his stun gun and pounced on Jackie Hawks, but she fought back. Eventually, he managed to handcuff her. Tom Hawks was also handcuffed. They put the couple on the bed, and Skylar Deleon ordered Machain to get duct tape.
Jackie Hawks sobbed, pleading for mercy and asking them why they were doing this, even telling Skylar Deleon she had met his family and again begging him to explain their motive.
After their eyes and mouths were duct-taped shut, Jackie Hawks was led back to the galley where she was told to sign and fingerprint the power-of-attorney documents. Both she and her husband were told that if they cooperated, they would be let go.
"She was shaking uncontrollably," Machain testified.
Tom Hawks signed the same documents, but Skylar Deleon threatened that if he wasn't cooperative, he'd hit Tom Hawks with a his Maglite Flashlight. Tom Hawks assured them he would cooperate. Skylar Deleon also asked him for the title of the boat.
After they had signed the paperwork, Machain was told to "baby-sit" the couple. Tom Hawks remained relatively quiet during the ordeal, but his wife was "emotional."
"She was crying," Machain said. "She was saying she didn't want to die."
Tom Hawks tried reaching out to his sobbing wife to hold her hand and comfort her.
"She kept saying she wanted to see her grandchild," Machain said.
The boat began moving again as they duct-taped the couple's eyes and mouths again, this time wrapping the tape all the way around their heads. They were each tied up with rope and brought to the back deck of the boat. They were then tied to each other — Tom Hawks was bound up facing her back. At one point, Tom Hawks kicked his leg back, sending Skylar Deleon into chairs on the deck. Kennedy punched him hard on the side of the head and he would've "probably been on the floor," if he wasn't already bound to his wife. Jackie Hawks screamed and demanded to know what the three men were going to do.
They replied by tying them to an anchor. Skylar Deleon heaved it overboard. Kennedy pushed the couple, slamming them into the boat, but the anchor is what ultimately took them overboard.
Throughout the testimony, Henderson-Deleon did not respond. Earlier, as Machain explained his relationship with Skylar Deleon, Henderson-Deleon, 25, sat next to her lawyer with her head down. She and her attorney Michael Molfetta maintain that Henderson-Deleon had no knowledge of the plan; they call her husband the mastermind. Prosecutors accuse Henderson-Deleon of being intricately part of the plan.
Henderson-Deleon is the first defendant to stand trial. Authorities have never found the Hawkses' bodies. She has also been charged with murder for financial gain because the couple was allegedly forced to sign over their power of attorney and boat title to Skylar Deleon, according to prosecutors.
Machain testified that Skylar Deleon proposed killing the couple in October 2004 and that they could make $2 million in the deal.
Skylar Deleon painted himself as a hit man, Machain said.
"People need to be taken out. Somebody has to die," Machain said Skylar Deleon told him.
Tom Hawks was a retired probation officer, and Skylar Deleon convinced Machain that Tom and Jackie Hawks were "bad people," Machain testified.
"I wasn't really too fond of the idea, but he convinced me," Machain testified.
"Today was the toughest day and I don't think it'll be any tougher," Ryan Hawks said. "That's when someone who physically murdered my parents was 20 feet in front of my eyes and was specifically going through every detail of how they were murdered … so I can't imagine anything being any worse than that."
Machain maintained his composure through most of his testimony, having to stop periodically and apologizing once for breaking down. It was the family and friends of Tom and Jackie Hawks, including son Ryan Hawks, Tom Hawks' first wife and Jackie Hawks' parents, who fought to maintain their composure through the afternoon's testimony. During a 20-minute recess just after 3 p.m., many family and friends broke down, comforting each other before the judge returned to the courtroom.
On cross examination, Machain testified he had only heard Skylar Deleon speak with his wife one time during the ordeal and never had he heard him tell her any part of the plan.