Caitlin Rother

* True Crime *


Author: Caitlin Rother

Publisher: WildBlue Press

Pages: 504

Genre: True Crime

Tom and Jackie Hawks loved their life in retirement, sailing on their yacht, the Well Deserved.
But when the birth of a new grandson called them back to Arizona, they
put the boat up for sale. Skylar Deleon and his pregnant wife Jennifer
showed up as prospective buyers, with their baby in a stroller, and the
Hawkses thought they had a deal. Soon after a sea trial and an alleged
purchase, however, the older couple disappeared and the Deleons promptly
tried to access the Hawkses’ bank accounts.

As police investigated the case, they not only found a third homicide
victim with ties to Skylar, they also uncovered an unexpected and
unusual motive: Skylar had wanted gender reassignment surgery for years.
By killing the Hawkses with a motley crew of assailants and plundering
the couple’s assets, the Deleons had planned to clear their $100,000 in
debts and still have money for the surgery, which Skylar had already scheduled.

Now, in this up-to-the-minute updated edition, which includes extensive new material, New York Times bestselling author Caitlin Rother presents the latest breaking
developments in the case. Skylar, who was ultimately sentenced to death
row for the three murders, transitioned to a woman via hormones while
living in the psych unit at San Quentin prison. Recently, she legally
changed her name and gender to female, apparently a strategic step in
her quest to obtain taxpayer-subsidized gender confirmation surgery and
transfer to a women’s prison. Combined with Governor Gavin Newsom’s
recent moratorium on executions, this only adds insult to injury for the
victims’ families, who want Skylar to receive the ultimate punishment for her crimes.

“Rother gives readers compelling insight to an unthinkable American
nightmare. A gripping read… frank and frightening… it sizzles.”

Aphrodite Jones, host of True Crime on Investigation Discovery and bestselling author


 WildBlue Press



Alonso Machain was unemployed,

with bills to pay, so he took up his friend Skylar Deleon’s offer to help restore

a family boat at the Cabrillo

yard in Long Beach, California.

As they were sanding the Hatteras together, Skylar boasted about his plans for fixing

up his new toy, which

he’d gotten from his grandfather. Then Skylar offered his

twenty-one-year-old buddy a much more lucrative job.
“How much are you talking about?” Alonso asked.
“A couple million dollars,” Skylar said.


How do you make a couple

million dollars without it

being illegal?”

“Well,” Skylar said, “it’s not really illegal,

unless you get caught.”

As Skylar’s

plan evolved in the coming days of October 2004, the promised payoff for

Alonso soon increased to “several million” dollars to help Skylar “take care” of some people who had done something

and pissed somebody off.


wasn’t usually paid for these

gigs, he said, but he

got to keep the assets of the “targets,” who were typically

well-off. His first

contract, for example,

was a guy who’d been selling drugs in Huntington Beach

schools and owed

money to the wrong people.

Skylar said he’d split the proceeds of his next job

with Alonso, but didn’t give him much time to mull

it over.

“So, you want to do it or not?” Skylar

asked a couple days later.

Alonso wasn’t really

sure what to think. Skylar

was always talking

about how rich

he and his family were, and Alonso

believed him. Although he knew Skylar liked to tell stories, he never stopped to consider that the few times Skylar

had thrown him a mere twenty

dollars for the boat restoration work, they’d had to drive to an ATM to get it.

After Alonso decided to take the job,

Skylar went into more detail about the plan, showing him photos of a yacht called the Well Deserved, whose wealthy owners had put it up for sale. Alonso’s

role was to help Skylar get “in” with the owners, Tom and Jackie Hawks, then hold them down.

The fifty-five-foot trawler was moored

in the upscale community

of Newport Beach in
Orange County, a sharp contrast

to the sprawling mix of urban, industrial, and suburban areas

of Long Beach,

where Skylar lived with his

wife, Jennifer,

in neighboring Los

Angeles County.


the spacious homes in Newport,

decorated in the mute

beiges and sandstone of the wealthy,

home for Skylar

and Jennifer was

a cramped converted garage behind her parents’ duplex.

Space was so tight

the Deleons had to stack

their belongings on the floor and hang their clothing

from a pole lodged between

two dressers next

to the bed.

It was a far cry from the opulent

mansions featured on The Real Housewives of Orange County and
The O.C.

Contrary to the story he’d told Alonso about the $3 million

a month he’d earned working

with Ditech Funding, Skylar had been fired from his job as appraiser’s

assistant there and looked at his wealthier

neighbors in “The O.C.” with envy. He coveted their waterfront homes,

boats, and private planes that he couldn’t afford, and he lied to persuade

folks that he could.

Although he wasn’t

anywhere near as smart or capable

as Bernie Madoff in building a complex

financial scheme, Skylar’s scam was just as—if not more— deceitful.

And when it came to lying and manipulating people, Skylar was pretty good at

that, too.

The next time he and Alonso met, Skylar said he’d

analyzed photos of the boat’s interior for radios and weapons, such as spearguns, and had determined the best way to overcome the couple. Using

stun guns and handcuffs, Alonso would grab Jackie in the galley while Skylar took down Tom in the stateroom, where no one could hear him scream.

Skylar said

he’d considered taking Tom scuba

diving and finishing him off underwater, but he’d realized

that would preclude the Hawkses from

signing over the boat title and power-of-attorney documents he was going to draw


“What I’ll do is just take them out to sea and toss

them overboard,” he said.


purchased two stun guns together, then Skylar

sent Alonso, a former jail guard he’d befriended while serving time for armed burglary a year earlier, to buy

two pairs of handcuffs.

The next day, November

6, Skylar said it was time

to do the deed. By

now, Alonso felt it was too late to
extricate himself from the situation. If twenty-five-year-old Skylar

really was a hit man,

what would prevent him from harming Alonso?

As they drove to the dock, Skylar

stopped a couple

blocks away to scope out who was aboard, then

called Tom to pick

them up in his dinghy. The Hawkses were expecting them.

On board,

Tom proudly gave them a tour of his home,

but Alonso could see from Skylar’s tone

of voice and body language that he’d changed

his mind. Skylar seemed far too relaxed

to kill anyone as he chatted

with Tom for forty-five minutes

about possible modes of payment. Before

they left, Skylar

made sure that Tom and Jackie knew

he was definitely interested in purchasing the

vessel and would be back

for a lesson on how to operate it.

Skylar told Alonso

afterward that he’d changed his mind once he’d realized that Tom was too muscular for the two of them to overpower alone. They really needed a third man.

Skylar also sensed

some discomfort on the Hawkses’

part, so he called Jennifer

on his cell phone as soon as

they got back to the car.

“Hey, you need to

come down, take a look at the

boat, to make these people

feel a little more at ease,”

he told her.

After sending Alonso

on his way, Skylar

and his pregnant wife

went back on board, pushing

their ten-month-old daughter, Haylie,

in a stroller, to do just that.


Author Interview

1.     What would you consider to be your Kryptonite as an author?
Photo permissions. They are very time-consuming and often difficult – and increasingly cost prohibitive-- to obtain. Because of increasingly conservative and restrictive requirements by publishers -- and more non-writers who mistakenly think it’s a snap to write and publish a decent, marketable book -- filling a photo insert can be even more challenging than writing the book itself.

2.     If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t keep rewriting the first hundred pages of your novel. No wonder it took 17 years to get published! But you were right. If you want it bad enough you will get published. Persistence and rebounding from rejection are the keys to getting published, and staying published.
3. Favorite childhood memory involving books?
Riding my bike to the library and filling up my flimsy little backpack with books, adding them to my long list of titles and checking them off as I finished reading them – usually in bed.
4. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Passionate, determined and enterprising.

5. If you could own any animal as a pet, what would it be?
A kitten.

What is the first book that made you cry?
I don’t really remember, but before I was a published author I know Sybil terrified and horrified me, and kept me up reading late into the night. It was an awful story, but it was a page turner.

7.     How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
Nine months. (But as many as 17 years!)

8.     How do you select the names of your characters?
I write true crime stories so I use their real names, but sometimes I choose to use their first names versus their last because it’s written like a novel and makes for better storytelling to be more intimate. I use last names for law enforcement, prosecutors and judges, first names for family members, because they usually all have the same last name.

9. If you were the last person on Earth, what would you do?
Wow. I guess I’d talk to myself more than I already do. I’d have to come up with a plan to feed myself and find a good water source. But to say more, it would really depend on why I’m the last person. Was it alien abduction? Nuclear war? Or was it the rapture?

10. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Read, write, read, write, and rewrite. Writing is rewriting.

11. Tell us 10 fun facts about yourself! :)
1) I do as much home remodeling myself that I can, at least on the small jobs, like scraping and sanding peeling paint on exterior windowsills, and putting on a fresh coat. But I leave the big jobs, like my current emergency kitchen rebuild, for the professionals. That’s because it took me five years to remodel my tiny bathroom in my 83-year-old home: I ripped out the mirror tiles, pulled out the different colored tile along the bottom of the wall, patched the drywall, re-textured all the walls using drywall paste, and then painted the whole bathroom myself. I also picked out the new toilet, sink, and new shower fixtures, but had different plumbers install them all. Then I hired a tile guy to lay the beautiful royal blue tile that I picked out.
2) I have played the piano since I was seven and practiced every day for four months to learn “Passapied” by Claude Debussy, a very difficult, but beautiful piece, which sounds like falling water. I always wanted a grand piano and was able to finally buy one in 2000. It is still my favorite belonging.
3) I cut and color my own hair, even the back, which is pretty hard to do, so I usually ask for help to even it out.
4) I love to go long-distance swimming in the ocean in La Jolla, where I grew up, even though I have almost drowned several times. I try to avoid swimming in big waves and rough water.
5) I have forced myself to overcome shyness, anxiety, and stage fright to become a TV commentator, teacher, public speaker, and to play keyboards and sing in a band.
6) I was born in MontrĂ©al, Canada. I failed my first citizenship test because I had a super grumpy government immigration (INS) worker who administered the test. So I studied up and passed the test in time to vote in the 2004 election. I’ve voted in every election since.
7) When my back and neck act up, I switch to Dragon Naturally Speaking voice-activated software. I’ve actually “written” several books by dictation. I even dictated the answers to these questions. I will not be deterred!
8) I was fired from my first newspaper job. Or, depending on how you look at it, I was actually just not hired after my probation period. They told me I didn’t “have what it takes” to be a newspaper reporter and that I should go into TV. At the time, it hit me hard, but then I decided to show them. I immediately got a job at another newspaper that had offered me a position before I accepted the job that I had just lost, and I didn’t miss a day’s work. In the coming years, I went on to be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, won many journalism awards, got my first book published, then left newspapers to pursue my dream of being a full-time author. From there, I worked hard to achieve my next goal, which was to become a New York Times bestselling author. I have gone on to publish 13 titles and become a TV crime commentator as well. So much for lacking “what it takes.” Yes, I’m very determined.
9) I used to collect miniature animals and Pierrot dolls, perfume bottles, and colored glass vases. But now that all my shelves are full – where I don’t have books – I am satisfied to just look at them and not buy any more.
10) That’s because I lack the female shopping gene.
12. What is your favorite genre to read?
I like many different genres, but feel like I learn a lot about good writing by reading literary fiction.

New York Times bestselling author Caitlin Rother has
written or co-authored 13 books, ranging from narrative nonfiction to
memoir and crime fiction. Her latest titles are the true-life thriller Hunting Charles Manson and her memoir short, Secrets, Lies, and Shoelaces. A former investigative reporter at daily newspapers for 19 years, Rother has been published in Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Boston Globe and Daily Beast. She
has appeared more than 200 times on TV, radio and podcasts
internationally, including Australian Broadcast Corp’s “World News,”
“Crime Watch Daily,” “People Magazine Investigates,” “Nancy Grace,”
“Snapped,” and dozens of shows on Netflix, Investigation Discovery,
Oxygen, A&E, Reelz, C-SPAN and various PBS affiliates. Rother also
works as a writing-research coach and consultant, leads writing
workshops, and plays keyboards and sings in an acoustic group called
breakingthecode. She is working on two new books, one titled “Justice
for Rebecca,” about the Rebecca Zahau death case, and one about the San
Diego Zoo’s Frozen Zoo. Please visit her on Facebook, Instagram or
Twitter or visit her website at


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