A San Diego author released a book last month about the murder of a former Carlsbad firefighter and his wife who were tied to the anchor of their own boat and tossed overboard.
For years, UC San Diego literary instructor Caitlin Rother sat inside an Orange County courtroom listening to the gruesome yet gripping details of a murder at sea in 2004 that gained national attention.
"This was the quintessential case of good versus evil," said Rother.
The good, Rother said, was retired couple Tom and Jackie Hawks. Tom Hawks, a former Carlsbad firefighter and probation officer, was enjoying his golden years with his wife and spending most of their retirement aboard their aptly named 55-foot yacht, The Well Deserved
The evil, on the other hand, was Skyler Deleon. Rother called him a greedy con man who looked and sounded nothing like a cold-blooded killer.
"His voice is high like a girl and he's kind of effeminate," said Rother.
Despite his outward mannerisms, Deleon was deviant and capable of treachery, according to Rother. After spending four days interviewing Deleon in prison before he was sentenced to death, Rother revealed the chilling story in her new book entitled "Dead Reckoning."
"He's really, fact-to-face, pretty non-threatening," said Rother. "So if you didn't know who he was and didn't know anything about him, you wouldn't think he was capable of murder."
In her book, Rother included details about how Deleon met the Hawkses in Newport Harbor and pretended to be interested in buying their boat. The couple were selling their yacht to spend more time with their grandchildren. Rother said Deleon even used his own wife and child to portray himself as a family man and gain the couple's trust. The Hawkses did not suspect Deleon's wife, Jennifer, was involved in the crime, but she was also later convicted.
"Skyler and Jennifer Deleon were really like the 'Bonnie and Clyde' of Orange County," said Rother.
Rother wrote how Deleon confessed to recruiting two accomplices because he was afraid he wouldn't be strong enough to overpower the Hawkses by himself. One accomplice would help take down Tom Hawks in the stateroom while another would handcuff Jackie Hawks in the galley, Rother wrote in the book.
Deleon promised the couple he would spare their lives if they simply signed over power of attorney for the boat. But when the couple finally agreed, Deleon tied them to the anchor, tossed it over the side of the boat and watched as the couple plunged deep into the ocean.
"He showed no remorse before or after that," said Rother. "He seemed callous and completely brutal. I mean, what a horrible way to die."
Rother said what struck her was one of Deleon's motives for the crime. Deleon told her he wanted a sex change.
"That's one of the motives for this murder," said Rother. "He didn't have the money for it. He put down a $500 deposit but still needed $15,000."
Skyler Deleon was sentenced to death in 2009, while Jennifer Deleon will spend the rest of her life in prison.
Rother has authored and co-authored a total of seven books. For more information and to find out where you can purchase a copy of "Dead Reckoning", visit CaitlinRother.com
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