SANTA ANA, Calif. – Skylar Deleon is an evil and manipulative man who murdered a couple by tying them to an anchor and throwing them from their yacht as they begged for their lives, a prosecutor said during closing arguments Thursday.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy told jurors in an Orange County courtroom that a cash-strapped Deleon killed Thomas and Jackie Hawks to seize ownership of the couple's 55-foot yacht and to try to steal their savings.
"He is not a genius, (he is) very clever in a diabolical sort of way," Murphy said. "Evil? Absolutely yes. And manipulative."
Deleon, 29, is charged with murder and murder for financial gain in the couple's disappearance from Newport Harbor nearly four years ago.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Deleon, who is also accused of killing a man he met on a work furlough program in 2003 by slashing his throat and dumping his body in Mexico.
Deleon's attorney Gary Pohlson has admitted his client committed the three murders but said Deleon should be sentenced to life in prison like his former wife, who was convicted in 2006 of murdering the Hawkses.
"I assume you're going to find him guilty and the special circumstances to be true because that's what the evidence shows," Pohlson told jurors, who will begin reviewing the case on Monday.
"The way I see this, this case is about the why."
Pohlson's concession is not the same as a guilty plea. Deleon pleaded not guilty, which means jurors are required to return a verdict.
Deleon is accused of drafting a plan to kill the Hawkses after learning they were planning to sell their boat — named the "Well Deserved" — to spend more time with their baby grandson in Arizona.
Prosecutors said Deleon feigned interest in buying the nearly half-a-million-dollar yacht and convinced the Hawkses to take him on a test cruise. There, prosecutors said, Deleon enlisted the help of two men to overpower the couple and forced them to sign over ownership of the yacht before binding them to an anchor and throwing them overboard.
Prosecutors said Deleon and his then-wife Jennifer Henderson spent the next day scrubbing the yacht clean with bleach wipes, erasing any trace of DNA. A police search of the converted garage where the couple lived yielded the Hawkses' voter registration and auto insurance cards and video recorder, Murphy said during opening statements.
"At the end of this case, I am going to ask you to take care of business on this and make sure that Skylar Deleon suffers the appropriate punishment for what he did," Murphy told jurors Thursday.
Henderson was convicted in 2006 of murder and murder for financial gain for her role in the deaths and was sentenced to two terms of life in prison without parole.
Three other men also charged with the Hawkses' murders have yet to stand trial. They have pleaded not guilty.
Deleon, who allegedly boasted he was a star on the "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" but held a small part on one or two episodes, is also charged with killing a man in 2003. Prosecutors said Deleon received $50,000 from Jon Jarvi then killed him on a trip to Mexico and left his body there.