Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Gruesome Yacht Murder Case of Thomas and Jackie Hawks

The Investigation

In a short period of time, the police determined one thing: that the Hawkses would not likely be coming home. They had not used their checking account or cell phones. No money had been withdrawn and they hadn't boarded an airplane anywhere. A check of hospitals in California, Arizona and Mexico yielded nothing.

Newport Beach police searched the Well Deserved on Nov. 27 and found heavy-duty garbage bags on board along with a receipt for bleach dated Nov. 17. They located Skylar, 25, and Jennifer, 23, who were still living with Jennifer's parents in nearby Long Beach, Calif. When Detective Dave Byington caught up with them, they were cleaning a church — a volunteer job they did on a regular basis.

They said they had bought the yacht on Nov. 15 while it was docked in Newport Harbor and had paid $465,000 in cash. After further questioning, Skylar changed that figure to $265,000, saying he didn't want to get into trouble with the IRS. The last they had seen of the Hawkses, they had been driving away in their car with the cash, the couple said.

Byington was given the name of Alonso Machain as a witness to the sale. He was also provided with the bill of sale. Then Skylar admitted that he had bought the boat to launder money that was related to a 2002 armed burglary arrest for which he had been convicted. Highly suspicious, Byington determined to interview Machain and the notary to see if their stories matched. He also added the description of the Hawks' car to a missing persons alert distributed to law enforcement nationwide and in northern Mexico.

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