Suspect portrayed as loving, naive

Defense, prosecution rest cases in trial of woman charged with killing a Newport Beach couple.

November 15, 2006|By Amanda Pennington

A woman on trial for participating in the killing of Tom and Jackie Hawks was really a caring, loving and sometimes naive mother, not the one calling the shots in the family as the prosecution has contended, her friends testified Tuesday as both sides rested their cases.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Matt Murphy and defense attorney Michael Molfetta will offer closing arguments Wednesday in the trial of Jennifer Henderson-Deleon. Henderson-Deleon's husband, Skylar Deleon, Alonso Machain and John Fitzgerald Kennedy have also been charged with killing the couple, but their trials are scheduled for next year.

Former roommate Erin Dworzan testified that Henderson-Deleon is not an emotional person.

Dworzan and a more recent neighbor and friend, Meghan Leathem, both testified about the Deleons' courtship. Dworzan said after the two met online, Deleon began romancing Henderson-Deleon, often bringing her flowers and taking her out to dinner. But Dworzan said red-flags went up in her mind because some of Deleon's stories "didn't match up here and there."


The relationship cooled off, she said, until Deleon said he was in an intensive care unit after he was involved in a motorcycle accident. From there, Dworzan testified, the romance heated up again.

Leathem testified that during her only visit to the prison inmate a month ago, Henderson-Deleon said she was scared for her life and the lives of her family members. On cross examination, Deputy Dist. Atty. Murphy tried to demonstrate how "convenient" the admission was coming one month before she was to stand trial. Fighting back tears during her testimony, Leathem said in the four months after Deleon's arrest, before Henderson-Deleon's arrest, she never made mention of being scared of her husband.

Henderson-Deleon's tax preparer, who the couple visited after the Hawkses' slaying, also testified for the defense. Jo Ann Zahn testified that Deleon admitted the money was obtained through illegal means. Zahn said it was money from a "payback" for a crime he committed for someone else and served time for.

Zahn testified that Henderson-Deleon wanted to make sure the couple properly reported the money for tax purposes and was more interested in "what's best" for her family.

Colleen Francisco, the aunt of Skylar Deleon, testified for the prosecution that she overheard Henderson-Deleon speaking with her parents about money that was stolen from a Newport Beach couple.

Pretending to be potential buyers of the Hawkses' boat, Deleon, Machain and Kennedy overpowered the couple aboard the boat, Well Deserved, then tied Tom and Jackie Hawks to an anchor and threw them overboard while they were alive, Machain testified last week. The couple was forced to sign a power-of-attorney document for Deleon, Machain testified.

Newport Beach Police Sgt. Evan Sailor took the stand to back up Francisco's testimony before prosecutors rested their case.

Defense attorneys did not have Henderson-Deleon or her mother, Lana Henderson, testify.

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin this morning, and Superior Court Judge Frank F. Fasel told the jury he expects they will start deliberating by Thursday.

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