SANTA ANA, Calif. – A jury on Thursday recommended death for a Long Beach man convicted of murdering two owners of a yacht by binding them to an anchor and throwing them out to sea as they pleaded for their lives.
Skylar Deleon, 29, sat motionless as the jury announced its decision following nearly two days of deliberation in Orange County Superior Court.
"He was disappointed," Deleon's attorney Gary Pohlson said afterward. "He was very hopeful he wouldn't get the death penalty."
Deleon was convicted last month of three counts of first-degree murder, which included the 2003 death of an Anaheim man and the killings of Tom and Jackie Hawks on their yacht in 2004.
The penalty phase of the trial included six days of statements from attorneys, victims' relatives, Deleon's family and psychiatrists who offered differing takes on the role child abuse has on a person's development.
Tom Hawks' son Ryan said he was grateful the jury wasn't swayed by the defense.
"I've been waiting four years for this, and this isn't for me," he said. "This is for my parents.
"Skylar is going to be sitting in that jail cell, socializing with his pals for four years before he is going to receive the needle, and my parents are still dead."
Deleon killed the Hawks in 2004 after feigning interest in buying their nearly half-a-million dollar yacht. Prosecutors say he overpowered them on a test cruise, tied them to an anchor and tossed them into the Pacific Ocean as they begged for their lives.
After the yacht killings, prosecution said, Deleon and his then-wife Jennifer Henderson scrubbed the boat clean with bleach wipes in Newport Harbor.
The Hawkses' bodies were never found.
Deleon was also convicted of killing Jon Jarvi, a man he met in a work furlough program while serving time for burglary.
Judge Frank F. Fasel will consider jury's recommendation when he sentences Deleon on Jan. 16.
Pohlson had pleaded with jurors to help spare his client's life, arguing Deleon was abused by a drug dealing father and abandoned by his mother, leaving him predisposed to violence.
Pohlson was up front about Deleon's guilt in the murders from the beginning of the trial, hoping to maintain his credibility when he asked them to recommend a sentence of life in prison without parole.
Prosecutor Matt Murphy had urged jurors to recommend death for Deleon for the cruel, callous way he carried out the killings. He said the jury did not seem convinced that child abuse caused Deleon to turn violent.
"It is not believable," Murphy told media after the jury's announcement. "This guy had every opportunity to be a productive member of society and chose to murder these people for money."
The jury issued a statement offering its sympathies to the families.
"We feel this was the only reasonable outcome given the evidence presented," the statement read. "We extend or condolences to all concerned and hope that this decision will help them heal."
Deleon's former wife Henderson was convicted in 2006 of murder and murder for financial gain in the Hawkses' deaths and was sentenced to two terms of life in prison without parole.
Three other men are also charged with the Hawkses' murders, including two allegedly on the boat at the time. They have pleaded not guilty.