MIAMI — A Florida couple accused of kidnapping their two young sons and fleeing by boat to Cuba were handed over to the United States and imprisoned and their children were returned to their maternal grandparents, who have official custody, authorities said Wednesday.
Joshua Michael Hakken and his wife, Sharyn, were being held Wednesday at the Hillsborough County Jail on charges of kidnapping, child neglect, and interference with custody, according to the jail's website. Joshua Hakken also was charged with false imprisonment. His bond was set at $154,000. No bond information was listed for Sharyn Hakken.
Both are expected to make their first appearance Thursday in Hillsborough County Court, the sheriff's office said in a statement. It was not immediately known if either of the Hakkens has an attorney. The couple will not face federal charges, said David Couvertier, a spokesman for the FBI in Tampa.
U.S. authorities say Hakken kidnapped his sons, 4-year-old Cole and 2-year-old Chase, from his mother-in-law's house north of Tampa, Florida. The boys' grandparents were granted permanent custody of the boys last week.
"Our grandchildren are safe," the grandfather, Bob Hauser, told a news conference with the sheriff's office late Tuesday. "We had an opportunity to talk with them before they left Cuba."
Bob and his wife, Patricia Hauser, asked the news media to give them at least 24 hours alone with the boys, the sheriff's department said in a statement. They planned to make a public statement possibly by Thursday.
Cuba tipped the State Department off to the Hakkens' presence Sunday, and from that moment "diplomatic contact has been exchanged and a professional and constant communication has been maintained," Cuban Foreign Ministry official Johana Tablada said in a statement.
An AP reporter spotted the couple and the children beside their boat at the Hemingway Marina in Havana on Tuesday. A man who resembled photographs of Joshua Michael Hakken yelled out "Stop! Stay back!" as the reporter approached, but there was no outward sign of tension or distress between the family members.
The family showed no sign they knew a decision about their fate had been made. The four strolled by an outdoor restaurant as security officials kept reporters at a distance. The youngest child was seated in a stroller and the elder boy sat down on a curb.
Cuba has harbored U.S. fugitives in the past, though most of those cases date back to the 1960s and `70s, when the island became a refuge for members of the Black Panthers and other militant groups. More recently, dozens of Cuban Medicare fraud fugitives in the U.S. have tried to escape prosecution by returning to the island.
But Cuba has also cooperated with U.S. authorities in returning several criminal fugitives in recent years, including Leonard B. Auerbach in 2008. Auerbach was wanted in California on federal charges of sexually abusing a Costa Rican girl and possessing child pornography. He was deported.
In 2011, U.S. marshals flew to Cuba and took custody of two U.S. suspects wanted in a New Jersey slaying.
Hakken lost custody of his sons last year after a drug possession arrest in Louisiana and later tried to take the children from a foster home at gunpoint, authorities said. A warrant had been issued for his arrest on two counts of kidnapping; interference with child custody; child neglect; false imprisonment and other charges.
Hakken entered his mother-in-law's Florida house last Wednesday, tied her up and fled with his sons, the sheriff's department has said. Federal, state and local authorities searched by air and sea for a boat Hakken had recently bought. The truck that Hakken, his wife and the boys had been traveling in was found Thursday, abandoned in Madeira Beach, Florida.
The family's flight to Cuba harkened back to the 1999 child custody case involving Elian Gonzalez, though unlike Gonzalez, the Hakkens had no apparent ties to the island.
In 1999, 5-year-old Gonzalez was found clinging to an inner tube off Florida after his mother and others drowned while fleeing Cuba toward American soil. The boy was taken to Miami to live with relatives, but his father in Cuba demanded the boy be sent back.
U.S. courts ultimately ruled Gonzalez should be sent back, though his Miami relatives refused to return him. In April 2000, U.S. federal agents raided the family's home and he was returned to Cuba soon after. He has since grown into a young man and joined a military academy.
Associated Press writers Christine Armario, Curt Anderson and Kelli Kennedy in Miami; Kevin McGill in New Orleans; Paul Haven and Peter Orsi in Havana; and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.
My Two Cents:
When I read these headlines, the first thought that came to mind was, how corrupt our ' Family Court System' is insofar as (in part) removing children from their natural parents under bogus reasons to obtain the Title IV (e) Federal Funding our Government gives the states to 'protect' abused children.
Since the corrupt system 'removed' my own children & gave them to their self proclaimed abusive father despite an out of state, life time order of protection... I became vigilant in finding out how a system meant to protect children would blatantly remove them from the loving safe care of me their mother and hand them over to a documented & self proclaimed abuser.. in my research, I found that I was not alone in this type of fight. In fact hundreds of other loving safe parents were having their children removed from them as well.
None of this made any sense to me, so I began digging further, and further down the rabbit hole and found out that our loved, well cared for, non abused children have become a money making machine for the States! Look it up yourself, research Title IV Federal Funding.. and read all the subcategories to see how deep the rabbit hole really is.
It matters not to these psychopaths in charge that these innocent children will grow up with all kinds of, character flaws including severely dysfunctional coping mechanisms aka personality disorders, along with major abandonment & trust issues.. NO, none of that matters, all that matters to these heartless cocksuckers is the fucking money!!
In my personal research on hundreds of families who have had their children removed, 99% of the cases were at worst, insane, at best.. could have been avoided by giving help to the parents!
Now, this particular case sounds like the dad has little control over his reactions, and I'm not condemning him for that- when they kidnapped my children, if I wasn't so afraid of spending the rest of my life in jail and never seeing my babies again, I may have done what this guy did- or others before him did for the same reasons... maybe!
Yet, it doesn't matter what I would have or would not have done.. he did it. And in my opinion, someone who is going to do what he's done to get his babies back.. is someone who adores his children and is having tremendous trouble living without them- as it should be!
When is this State kidnapping of our children going to stop??
How many other parents who lost their children to the money machine we call the 'Family Court' along with their equally corrupted sub agencies forensic evaluators et all., is it going to take to do more and more stupid shit that will no doubt lead to physical altercations with those who have, or with those who are, removing non abused children is it going to take before things change, and children are left home with their loving parents?
FYI, I am not saying this family was or wasn't guilty in whatever the underlying reasons were for having their children removed & I'm not saying they are or aren't abusive parents.. all I am saying is don't believe any of what you hear and only half of what you see when it comes to matters of the 'Family Court' system, including it's equally corrupt forensic evaluators!
And while you're at it, don't always believe what you, yourself thinks!