Yacht from murder for sale

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the ninth in a series of the top stories of each year since 2000. Look for the 2009 story of the year Thursday.

The 55-foot yacht where Thomas and Jackie Hawks met their fate between Newport Beach and Catalina Island is still up for sale at a local yacht brokerage firm.

Yacht broker Jerry Wakefield of Dixon Yachts International in Newport Beach has had serious buyers look at the Well Deserved, a fiberglass Lien Hwa trawler with a hand-carved teak interior, but none have been able to put the funds together to finance the boat.

Because of the bad economy, it’s harder for potential buyers to finance an older boat like the Well Deserved, Wakefield said.

“It’s just about getting the right person in it,” he said.

The Well Deserved was released earlier this year to Thomas Hawks’ sons, Ryan and Matt Hawks, after sitting in a city shipyard for the past four years, a piece of evidence in one of the most publicized murder cases of the past decade.

The sons put the boat up for sale last summer.

Attempts to reach Ryan Hawks, who has acted as a spokesman for the family in the past, were unsuccessful.

“I know it’s been tough for them because it’s pretty much the worst time to sell a yacht in this economy and it’s a notorious boat now,” said Orange County Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Matt Murphy, who prosecuted the case.

The boat is priced at $229,000, a little more than half what the Hawkses were asking for it in 2004, when con man Skylar Deleon convinced the couple he was a successful former child actor with money to burn who wanted to purchase the vessel.

Deleon, 30, who once had a bit part on the television show “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” was convicted in 2008 of conning the Hawkses into showing him the Well Deserved before he and two other men bound and gagged the couple, lashed them to the anchor and tossed them overboard. Their bodies were never found.

In April, Orange County Superior Court Judge Frank Fasel handed Deleon a death sentence for the Hawkses’ murders and the separate 2003 murder of Anaheim resident Jon Jarvi.

Deleon is incarcerated at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville. The men’s prison is reserved for inmates with serious mental or physical health problems.

Citing state and federal privacy laws, officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Tuesday that they could not disclose why Deleon was being held at the medical facility instead of San Quentin State Prison, where most death row inmates reside.

Calls to Deleon’s attorney, Gary Pohlson, were not immediately returned.

Deleon’s accomplice, Long Beach Insane Crips gang member John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was also sentenced to death in May.

Deleon’s ex-wife, Jennifer Henderson, was convicted for her role in the Hawks killings in 2007 and sentenced to life without parole. Henderson helped Deleon gain the Hawkses’ trust by visiting the Well Deserved with her infant daughter. She was also pregnant with her and Deleon’s second child at the time of the murders.

Another accomplice, Alonso Machain, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the Hawkses’ deaths as part of a plea agreement. Myron Gardner, who played a tangential role in the murders, was sentenced to a year in jail and given credit for time served.

The fact that Jackie Hawks cried and begged Deleon to spare her life that November night in 2004, while lashed to the anchor of the Well Deserved will always stick with Murphy, he said.

“It was a horrific way to die, crying and begging for her life,” Murphy said. “The lingering thing for me is how do you cry and hold your breath at the same time.”

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