48 Hours Mystery: Dark Voyage

A Former Child Actor Turned Cold-Blooded Killer Commits A Crime That Horrifies Even The Toughest Of Cops

Newport Beach, Calif., Detective Dave Byington doesn't rattle easily.

"This is probably the thirtieth time I've been on this vessel and I don't like it," he says of a 55-foot yacht, which now sits in dry dock - cold as a tombstone - giving silent testimony to a crime that defies humanity.

"I get the heebie jeebies on this boat. I just don't feel comfortable on it. You start to think about - imagine, only try to imagine what they experienced, and it's too horrific," he tells 48 Hours Mystery correspondent Maureen Maher. "The boat's under way, It's nighttime. It's cold."

The only thing outweighing the horror of what happened that night is the power of Tom and Jackie Hawkses love. It is a fairy-tale romance that started hundreds of miles from any ocean, in the mountains of Prescott, Ariz., where Tom was raising his two sons alone.

Tom's boys, Ryan and Matt, are sons from a first marriage that ended in am amicable divorce.

Ryan describes his father as a "man's man."

"He was very masculine, very outdoors. And he just wanted us to appreciate what we had in life… He would take us to Catalina Island to do a lot of hiking, fishing and backpacking," he says. "Some of my better times with him were on the water."

"It was an absolute great life," says Matt, a life where toughness was taught early on.

"You know, stay strong. I remember if I wrecked or cried as a little kid, he'd be like, 'Toughen up boy. Toughen up,'" Ryan recalls.

Above all else, Tom Hawks played by the rules. He worked with the probation office of Yavapai County, helping those in trouble, find a second chance.

"Tom was a kind of probation officer that would take a real interest in the problems that his probationers were having," John Ryder tells Maher.

Ryder, Brian Gray and Bill Paiano were Tom's co-workers and knew what kind of a man he was. "Tom was a quality guy," says Paiano.

"I believe Tom's family life, like most of us that worked together, was really important to him," says Gray.

But something major was missing in his life. Then, the tough, single father had his heart melted by Jackie O'Neill.

"She met Tom at a chili cook-off. I believe it was July of '86," says Jackie's best friend, Patricia Shutz. "He would walk on water for her, and she would do the same for him."

It was clear where things were heading.

"He got down on his hands and knees and he asked her to marry him," Shutz says. "She was very excited and she was very happy."

And soon, Ryan and Matt were happier, too. Because, they say, there was a downside to life alone with dad - like Tom's "famous goulash."

"He would make a pot of it for a week," Ryan explains. "And every time we'd come home for dinner it'd be like, 'Ugh, this again?'"

Things changed once Tom and Jackie wed. "Dinners got a lot better," says Matt.

Matt and Ryan were still in elementary school when Tom and Jackie wed in 1989. The boys came to think of Jackie as their mother.

"She was the best mother any boys could ever have. Really," says Shutz.

Ryan describes Jackie as a real trooper. "Most of the time they do something, it's my father's idea. And Jackie never complains and she just goes with it."

So it came as no surprise when Tom sold the house and Jackie said 'yes' to a dream Tom had been nurturing for years - to retire, own a yacht and live on the sea.

"He said, 'Life's too short, and it's my life, this is our time, and I feel if I hesitate, then it would just go by and I'll miss it,'" says Ryan.

It was in Newport Beach, Calif. that Tom and Jackie Hawks came to find paradise. Their dream was rooted in two simple things: being together and being on a boat. Few people had lived better lives, so it almost seemed like fate when the couple bought a 55-foot yacht that was already named Well Deserved.

For Tom and Jackie, a dream had come true. Life was an endless cruise filled with good times and best friends, sailing from Catalina Island to Mexico's Sea of Cortez.

"Being on water for them was a solitude," Ryan explains. "It was seeing the curve of the Earth and seeing the sunset fall right behind it every night."

While Tom and Jackie were living the life they'd always dreamed of, something wonderful was happening in the mountains of Prescott, Ariz., that would alter their lives forever: Matt and his wife, Nicole, welcomed baby Jace.

"They were just very excited," Matt says. "Jackie was already buying baby clothes."

After four years at sea, Tom and Jackie decided being grandparents was worth more than all the sunsets across the Pacific.

"They wanted to come back and be a part of our lives," Matt says. "They believed very strongly in family."

The couple put a small ad in a boating magazine and the Well Deserved was on the market; all they needed was an honest buyer.