Cold Case Wiki
John Hawkins
"The Hawk" in 1958
John "The Hawk" Hawkins
Portrayed by Charles Esten
Episode Static
Status Deceased (1958)

John "The Hawk" Hawkins was a popular rock & roll DJ on Philadelphia's WIXA radio in the 1950's until his untimely death while broadcasting in 1958. For decades, his death was presumed to be a suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. It was not until 2006, that it was determined to be a murder.


In his twenties, Hawk married the future Dottie Mills. The two later had a daughter, Jenny. Hawk would sit his young daughter up with him at his piano as he played and would tell her that scarlet roses were the prettiest in the world, just like Jenny, whom he called his "scarlet rose". He even composed a song to his daughter, "Scarlet Rose", in 1942.

Dottie soon grew weary of life with a struggling musician, however, moving from city to city, and divorced Hawk when Jenny was four years old. At Dottie's urging, Hawk was not part of Jenny's upbringing after this, and would remained estranged from both of them for the next thirteen years.

Eventually, Hawk found great success as a rock DJ on WIXA. He also hosted sock hops for local teens and hosted concerts for popular musicians, even getting top billing over much of the talent. Hawk was fiercely loyal to rock music. He was unafraid to play black music to white teens and consistently resisted bribe offers from record companies to play any music he didn't like. This occasionally caused some friction with some people, like his assistant Tim "Bones" Hamlin, a struggling young musician who was upset when Hawk declined to play a piece he'd recorded called "Belly Button Rock". Hawk stuck to his principles, however. His partying lifestyle also once came back to haunt him when a man named Lloyd Chester wrongly accused him of getting his daughter Carly Chester pregnant.

In the summer of 1958, a month before Hawk's death, Dottie would re-enter his life, briefly, when she had to get his signature to sell the house they'd once lived in. Sometime later, a now-17-year-old Jenny paid Hawk a visit at a local diner, initially not telling him who she was. Jenny would begin following Hawk around to events, calling him at the station, and writing to him. Hawk, still unaware of who she was, tried to break off contact at first. Jenny caught up with him when he was MC at a Little Richard concert and gave him a recording she'd made of "Scarlet Rose", finally revealing to Hawk that she was his daughter.

After the concert, Hawk tried to explain to Jenny why he'd gone away and reminisced about his days with her. Hawk resolved to take some time off from work and go on the road to California with Jenny. He even arranged for her to sing back-up with a band.

On Hawk's work front, however, things were deteriorating. A record executive named Benson Ockley continued attempting to bribe Hawk to play his music. Hawk refused, as usual, but was shocked to discover Bones had accepted money from Ockley. Since Hawk always allowed Bones to pick one song to play, Hawk could be held criminally responsible.

Hawk went see Bones at a local club where Bones was being entertained by two young women, Gigi and Lulu, unaware that they were prostitutes. Hawk confronted Bones about his actions and Bones apologized. Hawk announced his decision to take a break from his radio show and leave with Jenny for a while. Bones admitted he'd only wanted to be a winner like Hawk, to which Hawk told Bones that he always was.

After the two reconciled, Hawk returned for what would prove to be his final show on August 29, 1958. After Bones left to host a party, Dottie turned up at the studio. She had learned of Jenny's plans to leave with Hawk and sing. Dottie, the daughter of a failed musician herself, insisted that Hawk stay away from her, but he attempted to tell her that he wanted to be there for Jenny then and that she was talented. Hawk then played Jenny's record for his listeners, but a distraught Dottie pulled his gun from a shelf and pointed it at him. Hawk attempted to calm her, but the gun when off, killing him.

A horrified Dottie placed the gun in Hawk's hand to make it look like a suicide, then fled. When Hawk had slumped over, however, a studio recorder had been activated, and picked up the studio sounds.

Decades later in 2006, a filmmaker named Tom Bergin, creating a documentary on Hawk, used computer editing software to filter out the studio sounds and picked up the sounds of footsteps and a creaking door after the sound of the gunshot, determining that Hawk's death had been murder, not suicide.

Detectives interviewed Bones, Dottie, Lloyd, Skiz, and Jenny, before Dottie confessed to the crime, and Hawk's murder was solved. Hawk's spirit last appears to Jenny while she sits at her piano.