A former child actor and his wife were ordered to stand trial Tuesday for the murder of a wealthy California couple who, prosecutors say, were tied to the anchor of their yacht and thrown overboard alive, never to be seen again.
Orange County Superior Court Judge John Conley ordered 26-year-old Skylar Deleon, who once starred in the “Power Rangers” TV series, and his wife, 24-year-old Jennifer Henderson Deleon, to stand trial for the murders after a two-day preliminary hearing in Santa Ana, south of Los Angeles.
Also bound over for trial in the case, which baffled police for months as they searched for the missing couple, were a member of the Crips street gang and a prison guard who are accused of helping carry out a conspiracy to steal the 55-foot luxury yacht “Well Deserved.”
“It’s haunting to think these nice, loving people were trying to hold their breaths as they sank to the bottom of the ocean,” Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy said during the hearing. “This is as cold-blooded as it gets.”
Prosecutors say Deleon came up with the plot after spotting the yacht for sale in a boating magazine last November and meeting owners Thomas Hawks, 57, and his 47-year-old wife Jackie.
He is accused of enlisting the help of 40-year-old gang member John Fitzgerald Kennedy and ex-jailer Alonso Machain, 21, to carry out the murder on November 15, 2004. Machain has since confessed to police and will be tried separately.
Attorneys for the Deleons rejected the charges and during the hearing attacked the credibility of Machain, who is expected to be a star witness for the prosecution.
A police detective testified during the hearing that Deleon and his then-pregnant wife posed as interested buyers and convinced the Hawks to take the yacht on a test run.
Miles off the coast of Newport Beach, prosecutors say, Thomas and Jackie Hawks were attacked with a stun gun, handcuffed and gagged with duct tape. After signing over power of attorney to one assailant, they were tied to the boat’s 66-pound anchor and thrown overboard.
The couple was reported missing by relatives and police were led to the Deleons, who produced a bill of sale for the yacht and the power of attorney. Authorities believe the bill of sale was falsified.
Police also found that Deleon had unsuccessfully tried to access the Hawks’ bank account in Arizona using the power of attorney.