Murderer gets life without parole

The son of slain Newport Beach yacht owner Tom Hawks stood at the podium in Judge Frank Fasel’s courtroom Thursday afternoon and told the family of convicted murderer Jennifer Henderson Deleon that they should give up her children for adoption. Henderson Deleon, a mother of two, was sentenced Thursday to two consecutive terms of life without parole for the murders of Tom and Jackie Hawks.

“I wish for the defendant’s family to give her children up for adoption so they may grow up not knowing who their parents were or what they did or how they were used as decoys for financial gain,” Hawks said.

The prosecution contended Henderson Deleon used her children to gain the trust of the couple, so her then-husband Skylar Deleon and a friend could allegedly strong arm the couple to sign over the deed to their yacht before lashing them to the anchor of the vessel and casting them into the ocean somewhere off Newport Beach in November 2004. Hawks’ brief and to-the-point statement to the court was purposely unemotional, he said after the hearing.

“I know she didn’t care about my father,” he said. “I think the only thing she cares about is her children, and I think they should be given up for adoption it’s something I feel very strongly about.”

Henderson Deleon visited the Hawkses on their yacht, the Well Deserved, pregnant, holding her infant daughter. The prosecution contended Henderson Deleon put the couple at ease by visiting them with her children.

“Because of her, these people were murdered,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Matt Murphy said after the hearing.

Henderson Deleon, 26, appeared in court looking 20 to 30 pounds thinner than during her trial nearly a year ago. She had dark circles under her eyes, and her dark hair hung nearly to her waist.

Clad in a pastel pink sweater that hung off her frame and black slacks, she looked at the floor while walking to her seat, only glancing up briefly to look at family members seated near the front of the courtroom.

She did not react to the sentence and looked straight ahead during for most of the court proceedings.

Robert Gayle, a cousin of Tom Hawks, spoke at the sentencing on behalf of Jackie Hawks’ family.

“I hope she gets life without parole because she sentenced my daughter to death,” Gayle read from a letter from her parents.

The judge rejected Henderson Deleon’s request for a new trial, and did not lecture Henderson Deleon when handing down her sentence, speaking only briefly to explain the terms of the two life without parole sentences. The hearing lasted no more than 10 minutes.

As part of her sentence, Henderson Deleon was ordered to pay $1,452 in restitution to Ryan Hawks and $4,500 to his brother Matt Hawks.

Henderson Deleon’s attorney, Jeremy Goldman, asked that his client be addressed as Henderson at the hearing, as she is now divorced from Deleon.

Deleon, 28, and his friend John F. Kennedy, 42, await trial in January 2008. Both men face the death penalty if convicted.

“I’ll have more to say to Skylar Deleon,” Hawks said after the hearing. “It’s very emotional, but I don’t want to break down. It’s hard to sit in court and hear how my father knew his fate.”

Murphy said he was optimistic for the outcome of Deleon and Kennedy’s trial next year.

“Newport Police did an excellent job with the investigation and we feel very confident,” Murphy said after the hearing.

The murder trials of two other men, Alonso Machain and Myron Gardner, are pending in connection with the case. Gardner is accused of introducing Deleon and Kennedy.

BRIANNA BAILEY may be reached at (714) 966-4625 or at

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