Story Summary

The search for Chase & Cole Hakken


Chase Hakken (2), Cole Hakken (4)

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has issued an AMBER Alert for two young children after their non-custodial, biological parents abducted them from their custodial grandmother in Tampa, Florida around on April 3, 2013. Louisiana State Police have issued a Level II – Endangered/Missing Advisory as the biological parents and children may be traveling to or through Louisiana.


Joshua Hakken & Sharyn Hakken

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Josh-and-Sharyn-HakkenHAVANA, Cuba (CNN) — An American couple who allegedly kidnapped their two sons and sailed to Havana last week sat in a Florida jail Wednesday after Cuba hastily handed them over to U.S. officials.

Cuban authorities turned over the family of four to the U.S. State Department and the FBI after CNN found them in Havana on Tuesday.

The family arrived early Wednesday in Florida, where the two boys, ages 2 and 4, will get a medical exam, according to Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee.

He said they secured the family dog for the boys, who will be reunited with it later.

Authorities booked the parents, Josh and Sharyn Hakken, into the county jail in Tampa. They face multiple state charges, including kidnapping, auto theft and child neglect.

A federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution was dropped so the state can prosecute, a Justice Department official said.

The couple is being held away from the general population but without special treatment, said Cpl. Howard Lindsey of the Hillsborough County Department of Detention.

Their first court appearance is scheduled for Thursday morning, the state attorney’s office said.

Chase, 2, and Cole, 4, will live in Florida with their maternal grandparents, Bob and Patricia Hauser, who have had legal custody of the boys since a court in Louisiana terminated the couple’s parental rights this month, Gee said.

“Our grandchildren are safe,” said Bob Hauser, who spoke with them before they departed Cuba. He thanked the Cuban government “for being so cooperative and returning the kids.”

The U.S. Interests Section in Havana praised Cuban officials for their handling of the case.

“We would like to express our appreciation to the Cuban authorities for their extensive cooperation to resolve this dangerous situation quickly,” spokeswoman Lynn W. Roche said in a written statement.

CNN found the Hakkens in Havana

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CNN found Josh and Sharyn Hakken hunkered down with their two boys in a sailboat at the Hemingway Marina in Havana on Tuesday.

They had been on the lam after they allegedly snatched the two boys from the Hauser home in Florida on April 3.

Josh Hakken allegedly entered the Hauser home, tied up the boys’ grandmother and then fled with the children in her silver 2009 Toyota Camry. That vehicle was later found a couple of blocks away from the home.

Florida investigators told CNN they believe Hakken, his wife and the boys boarded the sailboat in nearby Madeira Beach.

Surveillance images showed the boat sailing into the Gulf of Mexico about three and a half hours after the boys disappeared from their grandparents’ home, investigators said. The images showed adults and children on board, they said.

Cuban officials announced Tuesday afternoon that they would turn the family over to U.S. authorities.

In the port, Josh Hakken glared through his sunglasses at the CNN reporter who found him and said nothing beyond confirming his identity.

The two boys were OK, said a woman matching the description of his wife. She left it at that.

Cuban security had an eye on them

Cuban security officials wearing sidearms appeared as the CNN crew was recording video and ordered it to stop.

At the security guards’ request, CNN stepped away from the boat, which resembled a photo circulated by Florida law enforcement officials, except more battered.

A statement from the Cuban Foreign Ministry said the boat pulled into the marina, a few miles west of Havana, in bad weather Sunday.

“From the first moment, diplomatic notes were exchanged and a permanent and professional communication has been maintained between MINREX” — the Cuban Foreign Ministry — “and the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, with the goal of guaranteeing the integrity and well-being of the minors,” the statement said.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office described Josh Hakken as an anti-government protester, and he was believed to be armed.

Last week, police in Slidell, Louisiana, issued a statement offering background on the Hakkens and why the boys were taken from the parents last year.

In June, Slidell police responded to a disturbance report at a hotel where Josh and Sharyn Hakken were staying with their sons, the police statement said.

“When police arrived, both Mr. and Mrs. Hakken were acting in a bizarre manner that alarmed officers. They were talking about ‘completing their ultimate journey’ and were traveling across the country to ‘take a journey to the Armageddon’,” the Slidell police statement said, adding, “Let it be noted that both of their children were present in the hotel room at the time.”

Because of the parents’ behavior and “the fact that narcotics and weapons were located inside of the hotel room,” the children were taken by child welfare officers, and Josh Hakken was arrested on drug charges, the statement said.

State charges

The state is charging both with kidnapping, interference with child custody, child neglect, battery and grand theft auto. Josh Hakken faces an additional charge of false imprisonment.

There is no extradition treaty between Cuba and the United States, but there have been previous cases in which Americans sought for crimes in the United States and discovered in Havana have been sent back by the Cubans.

The FBI estimates there are 70 fugitives from U.S. justice in Cuba, which is one of the reasons it remains on the U.S. list of countries that support state terrorism. Most of the American fugitives in Cuba have been there for decades and have ties to revolutionary movements or radical groups.

A couple with ties to the north shore is wanted for kidnapping and according to the ABC television station in Tampa has been spotted in Cuba.

Joshua and Sharon Hakken lost custody of their boys after Joshua was arrested in Slidell on drug charges.

Now, he’s accused of tying up the children’s grandmother and kidnapping them on Wednesday.

The family was last seen while on a sailboat near Tampa, Florida.


Chase Hakken (2), Cole Hakken (4)

The FBI in Florida has alerted Slidell police that a man who kidnapped his own two children may be headed this way.

Police in Tampa, Florida say Joshua Hakken tied up his mother in law at gunpoint this morning then left with the two boys.

They say Hakken and the children are driving with his wife and could be headed towards Slidell.

An amber alert was issued in Florida immediately after the kidnapping.  The suspects are thought to be driving a 2006 black GMC Sierra pick-up truck.

Det. Daniel Seuzeneau says Slidell police first met up with Hakken back on June 17th causing a disturbance inside a hotel, “”He was under the influence of narcotics and also had narcotics inside his hotel room and he was speaking kind of out of his mind a little bit.”

Det. Seuzeneau says Slidell alerted the Department of Children and Family Services who took the suspected kidnappers two children into custody, “He did get charged with a felony which he had to go to St. Tammany Parish jail and he was there maybe a week or so but not very long.”

Authorities say Hakken then showed up waving a gun at the foster care facility his two children were at. Hakken then left when he couldn`t get in.

The FBI says the State of Louisiana just

turned the two children over to the grandparents Tuesday.


Joshua Hakken & Sharyn Hakken

Det. Seuzeneau says the kidnapping occurred Wednesday. “He does have a warrant out for kidnapping and the kids are from what authorities say in Florida, in danger.”