Hakken parents arrested; children safely back in U.S. - KMSP-TV

Hakken parents arrested; children safely back in U.S.

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Photos courtesy HCSO. Photos courtesy HCSO.
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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

After sailing all the way to Cuba, accused kidnappers Joshua and Sharyn Hakken have been returned to the U.S., arrested, and booked in a Hillsborough County jail.

They face several charges, including kidnapping, child neglect, burglary with battery and interference in child custody. The couple will make their first appearance in court Thursday.

The boys, Chase and Cole, are back safely in the custody of their grandparents, deputies said. The sheriff's office says they were medically checked and appeared to be OK.

After the Hakkens were spotted in Cuba, U.S. and Cuban authorities worked together to get them back to Florida. The Hakkens, including their dog Nati, were flown back overnight – escorted by federal authorities.

There was concern that the Hakken family might stay in Cuba because there is no extradition agreement between the nations, but U.S. officials say Cuban authorities were very cooperative in the investigation.

"In talking to the State Department and our coordination with the U.S. officials, with the government of Cuba, they've been very supportive and they were very cooperative in all of our requests, in trying to make sure we got the family back safely," FBI agent Dave Couvertier said.

"We would like to express our appreciation to the Cuban authorities for their extensive cooperation to resolve this dangerous situation quickly," said a statement released by the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

The grandparents, meanwhile, said they need at least 24 hours with the boys, but they expect to speak more about the incident in the coming days. They spoke briefly late Tuesday night after the family arrived back in Florida.

"Right now, we're just looking forward to sitting and getting them in our arms and hugging them, getting them back home again," grandfather Robert Hauser said. "Thank you all very much."

The Hakkens left from Madeira Beach last week on a 25-foot sailboat called "Salty." They sailed through rough conditions in the Gulf of Mexico to get to Cuba and arrived some time on Sunday.

Authorities say Joshua and Sharyn Hakken were fed up with living in America. The couple had recently lost custody of their kids, and last week, deputies say, Joshua Hakken abducted Chase and Cole from their grandmother's home at gunpoint.

Joshua Hakken was arrested on drug charges in Louisiana last year. Police in Slidell said he was acting strangely and talking about a 'final journey' and Armageddon during the arrest, prompting authorities to remove the kids from the couple's custody.

At some point after that, Hakken allegedly showed up at the foster home with a gun in an unsuccessful attempt to get his children back. 

The grandparents were permanently awarded custody of Chase and Cole last week, apparently prompting the Hakkens to take the kids by force.

It's unclear what will happen to the boys. For now, they are in the custody of the grandparents, but a spokeswoman said the ultimate decision resides with the state of Louisiana.

"The most important thing is that they go back to whatever routines they had before all this happened," Licensed child psychologist Marlene Bloom told FOX 13. "Bedtimes, school, discipline – everything – keep it very steady, consistent and low-toned."

The couple will not face federal charges, but they face charges of kidnapping, child neglect, and interference with custody in Hillsborough County. Joshua Hakken also was charged with false imprisonment. His bond was set at $154,000. No bond information was listed for Sharyn Hakken.

The boat was left in Cuba. Its fate will rest with the FBI.

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