The attorney for a man accused of murdering a couple by throwing them off their yacht has told an Orange County jury his client is guilty of those two killings and a third, but shouldn't face the death penalty.
Defense attorney Gary Pohlson used his opening statement Tuesday to say he is only interested in saving the life of 29-year-old Skylar Deleon when the trial reaches the penalty phase. The concession is not the same as a guilty plea, however, and Pohlson says he will dispute some details of the prosecution case.
Deleon is accused of murdering the Arizona couple, Tom and Jackie Hawks, by throwing them into the ocean tied to an anchor in 2004. He is also accused of stealing $50,000 from a man and murdering him in 2003.
The defense strategy stunned Ryan Hawks, the 32-year-old son of Tom Hawks, who came to hear testimony.
"I was blown away," said Hawks, who lives in San Diego. "Thank God I was sitting down."
Earlier, Orange County prosecutor Matt Murphy told jurors the couple took a cruise off Southern California thinking they were showing off their yacht, the Well Deserved, to an interested buyer and ended up pleading to be spared.
"The evidence is going to show that is how Tom and Jackie Hawks died, begging for their lives," Murphy said. "The evidence is going to show Jackie Hawks was crying and saying ... I have a grandchild. Please don't kill me."
The prosecutor graphically described the killings.
"Skylar threw the anchor overboard, the rope goes taught and it rips Tom and Jackie Hawks off that (boat)," he said.
The bodies of the couple have never been found.
Deleon, a former child actor who allegedly boasted that he was a star on the "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" but apparently only had a small part in one episode. His ex-wife Jennifer Henderson was convicted in 2006 of two counts of first-degree murder and murder for financial gain and sentenced to two terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Three other men -- Alonso Machain, Myron Gardner and John Fitzgerald Kennedy -- have also been charged with murder and murder for financial gain but have yet to stand trial. They also pleaded not guilty.