20 years for key witness

A key witness for the murder trials of Newport Beach retirees Tom and Jackie Hawks was sentenced to 20 years in prison as part of a plea agreement Monday for his role in their deaths, bringing a quiet conclusion to a case that sent two other killers to death row.

Alonso Machain, 25, pleaded guilty to two counts of voluntary manslaughter, two counts of robbery and two counts of kidnapping as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors who used his first-hand testimony in three trials to get a female accomplice sentenced to life without parole and two of his male accomplices sentenced to death.

As part of the agreement, Machain was sentenced to 20 years and four months in prison and given credit for the last four-plus years he’s spent in Newport Beach and county jail awaiting his day in court. The earliest he will be up for parole is in 2026, prosecutors said.

“We felt this was the appropriate disposition,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. Matt Murphy.

Machain is the last person to be convicted for the drownings of Tom and Jackie Hawks, a retired Newport Beach couple who were looking to sell their boat and move to Arizona to be closer to their newborn grandson.

Machain, Skylar Deleon and John F. Kennedy, a Long Beach gang member, tricked the Hawkses into allowing them on the boat thinking they were going to buy it. Instead, the three men subdued the couple, forced them to sign over legal rights to their property and finances, then tied them to an anchor and threw them overboard alive into the Pacific Ocean, never to be seen again. Deleon and Kennedy were both sentenced to death earlier this year.

Jennifer Henderson, then Deleon’s wife, helped gain the couple’s trust and was sentenced to life without parole. Myron Gardner, Kennedy’s co-worker, pleaded guilty to putting Kennedy and Deleon in touch with each other, not knowing it was for a killing. He was sentenced to a year in jail and given credit for time served and is now free.

Murphy added that Machain’s agreement accounted for more than Machain’s vital testimony during the three trials. It took into account that Machain seemed genuinely remorseful for his crimes, he returned from Mexico — where he had fled after the crime — on his own free will and testified without ever working out a prior agreement with prosecutors. He had no previous criminal record outside of these killings, Murphy said, adding that the Hawks family supported the deal.

The Hawks family declined to comment Monday.

Authorities said Machain will receive special protection from other prisoners once he’s transferred to the department of corrections because people who testify for the prosecution are usually singled out for violence from by other inmates.


Past: Alonso Machain admits to helping kill Tom and Jackie Hawks aboard their boat in 2004 and testifies against his co-defendants to spare himself the death penalty.

Present: Machain pleads guilty to voluntary manslaughter, robbery and kidnapping as part of a plea deal and is sentenced to 20 years in state prison.

Future: Machain will serve his time in a state prison and be up for parole in 17 years with good behavior. He’ll be under special supervision because his testimony puts him at greater risk for attacks from other inmates.

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