SANTA ANA, Calif. (Oct. 20) - A man was convicted Monday of murdering three people, including a couple who were tied to an anchor and thrown off their yacht off the California coast.
An Orange County jury found Skylar Deleon, 29, guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and special circumstances for financial gain and multiple victims.
Deleon's attorney had conceded to the jury from the outset that Deleon was guilty but should not be put to death. The penalty phase of the trial will begin Wednesday.
Ryan Hawks, Tom Hawks' son, called the verdict a "warm up" for the penalty phase.
"It felt like a little tiny piece of the puzzle was put in justice," he said.
Deleon's attorney Gary Pohlson told reporters that he plans to convince the jury to spare his client's life by having Deleon's relatives and doctors testify during the punishment phase about his troubled past.
"He's had a horrible, horrible life," Pohlson said, noting that Deleon's father abused him and later died of AIDS.
Tom and Jackie Hawks were thrown from their yacht in 2004 during a cruise to show the vessel to Deleon, whom they believed was a prospective buyer.
Deleon was also found guilty of murdering Jon Jarvi, of Anaheim, in 2003. Prosecutors had said Deleon met Jarvi in a work furlough program while serving jail time for burglary, and killed him in Mexico after Jarvi gave him $50,000.
Prosecutors said Deleon feigned interest in buying the boat and took a test cruise where he and two other men overpowered the Hawkses, forced the couple to sign over ownership of the boat, tied them to the anchor and dumped them into the Pacific Ocean.
The Hawkses' bodies were never found.
Deleon's then-wife Jennifer Henderson was convicted in 2006 and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Three other defendants have pleaded not guilty. Two are accused of being on the yacht when the Hawkses were thrown overboard, and the final defendant is accused of planning the killings but not of being on the boat.
Deleon, 29, is a former child actor who had a small part in one episode of the "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers."