SANTA ANA, Calif. – A jury on Thursday recommended death for a man convicted of murdering a couple by binding them to the anchor of their yacht and throwing them into to ocean off the California coast 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 for the 2003 slaying of Jon Jarvi, who he met in a work furlough program while serving time for burglary, and the 2004 slayings of Tom and Jackie Hawks aboard their yacht.
During the trial's penalty phase, which took six days, jurors heard statements from victims' relatives, attorneys, Deleon's family members and psychiatrists, who offered differing takes on the role child abuse has on a person's development.
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.
Tom Hawks' son Ryan said he was pleased with the jury's recommendation.
"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 yacht. Prosecutors say he overpowered the couple on a test cruise, tied them to an anchor and tossed them into the Pacific Ocean as they begged for their lives.
According to prosecutors, Deleon and his then-wife Jennifer Henderson later scrubbed the boat clean with bleach wipes in Newport Harbor.
The Hawkses' bodies were never found.
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.
Judge Frank F. Fasel will sentence Deleon on Jan. 16.