Killer of Newport Beach Yacht Owners Tossed Overboard Fights Her Conviction
For helping her husband execute a 2004 murder plot that resulted in Thomas and Jackie Hawks being secured to an anchor on their Newport Beach-based yacht and tossed overboard alive in the Pacific Ocean, hairdresser Jennifer Deleon received two life sentences without the possibility for parole.
However, Deleon, who now goes by the name Jennifer Lynn Henderson following a divorce, refuses to concede her guilt.
Henderson has told a federal judge that the evidence against her was weak, an accomplice gave false testimony in exchange for sentencing leniency, a state appellate court wrongly ignored her claims and the prosecutor committed repeated misconduct in his successful 2006, closing argument at the trial inside Orange County Superior Court.
But this month, U.S. District Court Judge Philip S. Gutierrez accepted a magistrate judge's recommendation and report that concluded all of Henderson's legal claims lacked merit and noted the "substantial" evidence of her key involvement in the horrific crime.
Gutierrez also refused to grant her a certificate that would allow her to appeal his findings.
At the time of the murder, Henderson and her husband, Skylar Deleon--a onetime Mighty Morphin Power Rangers show actor, were in dire financial straits and devised a plan to pretend to buy the Hawkses' $465,000 yacht in hopes of boarding the 55-foot boat, killing the couple and back-dating sale documents to take ownership.
According to prosecutor Matt Murphy, Henderson used her pregnant condition to aid her husband in creating the illusion that they were decent people who sincerely wanted to buy the yacht from the retired couple.
Murphy and Newport Beach Police Department homicide detectives also gathered overwhelming evidence of Henderson's role before, during and after the killings.
The Hawkses' bodies were never recovered.
As the mastermind, Deleon, 33, is spending the rest of his life incarcerated while he awaits state execution on San Quentin State Prison's notorious death row.
Upshot: Henderson, who is now 32 years old and has been in state lockup since 2007, will continue to serve her life sentence inside California's largest female prison, the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla.
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