Pale with tousled hair, his orange jump suit sagging off his skinny frame and his neck craned forward, Skylar Deleon stared forward nearly emotionless but with clenched teeth as the family of his three dead victims told the judge how he had destroyed their hopes of a normal life and how they wished for him to be sentenced to death.
Deleon said nothing during his sentencing Friday, and never once looked at the Hawks family, or Jeff Jarvi, all of whom for the last four-plus years have sat through his countless court appearances and trial, waiting for justice.
Just after 11 a.m. in a packed courtroom on the ninth floor of Orange County’s Central Justice Center, Judge Frank Fasel dispensed a sentence that was a relief to most and surprise to none.
Deleon, 29, was sentenced to death for killing Tom and Jackie Hawks in 2004 and Jon Jarvi in 2003.
“This does bring closure. Being in court for all this, it stirs up emotions you didn’t know you have,” said Jeff Jarvi, older brother to Deleon’s first victim, Jon, in December 2003.
Early in their relationship, Deleon and then-wife Jennifer Henderson had amassed a massive debt.
While serving time in a Seal Beach jail in 2003, Deleon befriended Jon Jarvi and convinced him to take out a $50,000 loan for an investment in Mexico.
Trusting him, Jarvi drove with Deleon to a secluded road in the Mexican desert. There, Deleon committed “the ultimate betrayal” and cut Jarvi’s throat before walking away, leaving him to make a trail of blood as he crawled to the road, where he died.
The money Deleon got from Jarvi was quickly spent, leaving him and his wife-to-be thousands in debt yet again.
Deleon, ever the boating enthusiast, perused local ads for available boats, and chose the family-centered Hawkses as his targets.
Bribing notaries to forge government documents, tapping the Long Beach Insane Crips to help supply muscle for the crime, Deleon set out to deceive and ultimately kill the retired couple.
He, along with John Fitzgerald Kennedy and a third man, admitted accomplice Alonso Machain, subdued the couple aboard their yacht, forced them to sign over legal rights to their finances, and threw them overboard tied to an anchor alive.
“It’s difficult to imagine a case more cold-blooded and calculated than this,” said Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Matt Murphy after the sentencing. “As cold a murder as has probably ever existed in horrible murders.”
Through years of court appearances, media interviews and reflection upon his parents’ fate, Ryan Hawks has steeled himself to the emotions of the case.
Outside the courtroom Friday, Hawks spoke on behalf of his family.
“I don’t feel real different. Justice was done today,” he said. “He didn’t just do this to our family, he did this to his family.”
Hawks took his time to speak to address Judge Fasel and Deleon before the sentencing to comment on Deleon’s two kids, Haylie, 5, and Kaleb, 4.
He said it wasn’t right they were brought into this case — they were used as bait to get the Hawkses to trust the Deleons — and justice would be for them to never know their parents existed.
“I just wanted to give him something to think about,” Hawks said.
He has his doubts Deleon will ever be executed, but said if he is, he will be there.
Deleon is the third man to be sentenced related to the Hawkses slayings.
Jennifer Henderson was given life in prison without parole, and Myron Gardner, who unknowingly facilitated the meeting between Deleon and his accomplice, Kennedy, was given credit for time served and released last month.
Kennedy is scheduled to be sentenced next month, and Alonso Machain is expected to strike a plea deal with prosecutors in exchange for withholding the death penalty.
Reporter JOSEPH SERNA may be reached at (714) 966-4619 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.