Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Gruesome Yacht Murder Case of Thomas and Jackie Hawks

The New Owners

On Wednesday, Jim and Donny drove to the berth of the Well Deserved at Newport Harbor to investigate. Immediately, something struck them as odd. The line securing the dinghy to the yacht had been made fast haphazardly, as if by a novice. Thomas was always extremely conscientious about boating safety and protocol and would never have secured the dinghy in such a manner.

They then boarded the yacht and saw that several of Thomas' valued possessions, like a custom-made surfboard and an expensive FM radio were missing yet other personal items remained. If Thomas had sold the boat and unloaded his gear, then none of the items should have remained. Jim, a retired police chief, left a business card with the message on the back "If you are the new boat owners, please call."

He soon got a call from a woman identifying herself as Jennifer Deleon, the new owner. "Right away he was skeptical because she was very short, very direct. He could hear someone whispering in her ear," Ryan said. "She cut the call off, saying 'I've got a baby, I'll call you back later.'"

Jennifer Deleon
Jennifer Deleon

The family decided to wait until Thanksgiving to hear from the missing couple. By then, if they hadn't called, Jim would file a missing persons report. On Nov. 26, Jim was notified by an Arizona bank that Skylar Deleon had tried to access the Hawks' account twice: once from Arizona using the power of attorney and again the next day from Mexico. Jim notified the police and called Ryan, who was in Arizona looking for his father and Jackie.

"He said, 'You have to get back here. We need to talk in person.'" Ryan remembers talking to his brother, who said, "I think they're dead." Ryan drove straight through to California, showing up at his uncle's house at 3 a.m.

"I'll never forget that I sat across the kitchen table from my uncle, and he was talking about them in the past tense, saying that they had lived an awesome life," Ryan said.

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