48 Hours Mystery: Dark Voyage
Skylar Deleon: File under looser.
"Tom and Jackie Hawks put their boat up for sale and I went to buy it," Deleon tells Maureen Maher.
If the Hawks are all about family, the man who showed up to by their boat is all about the lack of it.
"Growing up I've never really felt like loved," Deleon tells Maher. "My childhood, I hated it… the environment, my dad… I hated him. He was into manufacturing drugs. And… distributing them and selling them."
Despite those odds, Deleon did try to make something of himself as an actor. He even made it onto the TV show "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers." He'd tell people he was a major member of the show's cast, but it was a lie. He admits to Maher he was an extra "three times."
Then, eager to get away from an abusive home, Deleon joined the Marines; he ended up going AWOL.
Deleon was fast drifting nowhere. "I don't think I have a life plan," he says. And then, through a random e-mail, he met a small-town girl with big ideas.
Jennifer Henderson grew up in Long Beach, Calif., in a devoutly religious home. She'd finish high school and end up working in a hair salon. After they chatted for a few weeks online, she and Deleon agreed to meet at the mall.
Orange County Prosecutor Matt Murphy now knows everything about these two aimless young adults and their twisted relationship.
"She wasn't really doing a whole lot with her life until she met Skylar," he says. "He was a manipulator and somebody that was a complete conman and she was a spoiled brat. Basically, the two of them together was the perfect combination."
They'd marry, and soon, daughter Haley was born. The pressure mounted for Deleon to support his new family and prove his worth to Jennifer.
"I definitely loved her. I mean, to the point there's nothing I wouldn't do for her," he tells Maher.
But Deleon couldn't hold a job and couldn't find a way to move his young family out of his in-laws' garage apartment. He grew desperate.
Other than going AWOL with the military, he tells Maher that he had never committed a crime before. "Not until I met Jen."
Deleon's new ambition led him to a new line of work: burglary. He was arrested and ended up in California's Seal Beach City Jail, leaving his wife to care for their baby.
"Their relationship is characterized by debt… they were $87,000 in debt," Murphy says. "Skylar has no job. And [Jennifer's] pregnant again."
When asked if Jennifer was happy, Deleon says "no," explaining she was tired of the bills and
tired of living with her parents. "She's like, 'You know, we gotta do something.'"
It was that pressure that led Deleon to Tom and Jackie Hawks, where he used the one deadly skill he really had.
When asked how he rates Deleon as a con artist, Murphy says, "As far as his effect on other people? I've never seen anything like Skylar."
The Well Deserved is now in dry dock in a southern California lot. Even those who chase horror for a living are haunted by the depravity of what happened here.
"It drives me nuts. It makes me so angry," Det. Dave Byington says. "And you start thinking about it … It's one of those things that you can't get out of your mind because it's that terrible."
It all began with the simple ad Tom placed in a boating magazine so he and Jackie could spend more time with their family.
Deleon says he called and talked to Tom. When asked if he was really planning on buying the boat, he replies, "Well, we really didn't have the money… Our thought at that point was to, I guess, rip them off."
But he knew he'd need help. That's when Deleon he enlisted Alonso Machain, a young prison guard he'd met when locked up on the burglary charge.
"Alonzo is unsophisticated. He hasn't been a lot of places. He hasn't done a lot of things," says Murphy. "So he was really ripe for Skylar to enlist as a confederate in this whole thing."
On Nov. 6, 2004, Deleon and Machain went down to the waterfront to meet Tom and Jackie Hawks. Tom, who was smart and savvy, didn't like what he saw.
"Thomas Hawks had been a probation officer for 20 years and Thomas Hawks was kinda leery," Murphy explains.
Tom was asking $435,000 for the Well Deserved. Deleon just didn't look like the kind of guy with that type of cash. When Jackie started proudly boasting about her new grandchild, he saw his opening: family.
"And the first thing that Skylar did when they got off the boat… is he picked up his phone and called Jennifer up in Long Beach, and he said, 'You gotta come down here and bring Haley and put these people at ease,'" Murphy says.
Jennifer came down that same day.
"I can't think of anything more horrific than a mother using her child," says Byington, who tears up at the thought.
But the Hawkses fell for it, convinced they had a real buyer. They couldn't imagine the trap that was being set. No one could.
The disgraced Marine sized up the life-long public servant mentally and physically.
"And what did you think when you saw Tom?" Maher asks. "The fact that he's pretty big," Deleon replies.
The gang of two needed a tough guy. Byington says Deleon recruited a gang member from Long Beach named John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Arrested more than 20 times, JFK joined the plot. Deleon set a date to test drive the boat while Jennifer stayed home - her child having served her purpose.
"Oh, she's up to her eyeballs in the whole thing," Murphy says of Jennifer's involvement.
It was Nov. 15, 2004. Machain came along and JFK even wore a suit. Deleon told Tom and Jackie that Kennedy was his accountant. The Well Deserved headed out to sea.
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