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Second killer given death

Accomplice in double murder of Newport Beach couple hears no support in courtroom before he’s sentenced to death.

May 01, 2009|By Joseph Serna

When John Fitzgerald Kennedy sat in the defendant’s seat in Judge Frank Fasel’s ninth-floor courtroom Friday morning, awaiting sentencing for killing a Newport Beach couple years earlier, no one came to his aid.

As is customary before many sentencings, the judge afforded both the victim’s and the defendant’s friends and family a chance to weigh in before he determined whether Kennedy should get life in prison without parole, or receive the ultimate punishment.

Not one person spoke up for Kennedy and pleaded for Fasel to spare his life. His lawyers could only make futile legal objections and motions to delay their client’s fate.

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The only person who commented on Kennedy’s character in the courtroom was Fasel, as he explained to attorneys why he would not grant a defense motion to take the death penalty off the table.

Fasel said Kennedy had committed “cold, vicious murders,” and maintained that his part in the 2004 plot to kill Tom and Jackie Hawks at sea was more than enough to warrant a potential death sentence.

In the end, after both sides declined to speak and left it to Fasel, he sentenced Kennedy to death.

Kennedy’s friends and family in the courtroom watched on. His defense attorneys argued during the penalty phase of the trial that Kennedy would be a positive influence in prison, as they claimed he was when he worked for a Long Beach church’s youth outreach program.

In 2004, Kennedy came on as a last-minute enforcer for Skylar Deleon’s plan to subdue the Newport retirees on their yacht out at sea, force them to sign over the rights to their finances, then drown them.

Fasel entertained the idea that Kennedy originally thought he was only helping in a drug deal, not a double-murder. The fact he could agree to killing at the drop of a hat, he said, was troubling.

“Wow. Incredible...how does someone do that?” Fasel said. “That’s possibly more aggravating than Skylar Deleon.”

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