Parents who lost custody snatched the kids from their grandparents and fled in a small boat to Cuba.
Patricia, front left, and Bob Hauser, front right, posed with their grandchildren, Cole Hakken, 4, and Chase, 2, with Hillsborough County sherrif’s investigators behind them, during a news conference outside the Hauser home in Tampa on Thursday. The two children were returned to the grandparents after their father, Joshua Hakken, kidnapped the children and sailed with them to Cuba.
Patricia and Bob Hauser said they want to get the boys back to a normal schedule and “just be carefree little boys again.” The grandparents were awarded custody of the young boys before their parents kidnapped them, detectives said.
“We haven’t asked the boys anything about the journey,” Patricia Hauser said at a news conference outside their house in suburban Tampa. “We’re just letting them tell us as things come out, if they feel like talking. We’re just treating it like a vacation.”
The grandparents have legal custody of 4-year-old Cole and 2-year-old Chase, who appeared briefly during the news conference to say “hi.” Cole jokingly struck a pose on the lawn for the cameras and stuck out his tongue. Chase held up his toy cars.
Their parents, Joshua and Sharyn Hakken, were charged with kidnapping the boys and ordered to remain in jail without bail. Judge Walter Heinrich ordered them to have no contact with any of the victims or witnesses in the case.
They’ll face a judge during a pretrial detention hearing on Friday. The Hakkens are being represented by the public defender’s office.
Joshua and Sharyn Hakken arrived in Florida early Wednesday with their sons and the family dog, accompanied by federal, state and local authorities after being handed over by Cuban officials. The children were “happy and sleepy” on a flight back to the United States, sheriff’s spokeswoman Debbie Carter said in an e-mail Wednesday.
Friends of the couple say they seemed to have a good life, doting on their two young boys, buying a comfortable home and building successful careers as engineers.
“This is a train that went completely off the tracks, and I don’t have any explanation for how it can go off the track that badly basically in a year and a half,” said Darrell Hanecki, who employed Sharyn Hakken for nearly a decade at Hanecki Consulting Engineers.
Hanecki said Wednesday that she was an easygoing and relaxed employee who worked from the home they owned in sunny Tampa so she could spend more time with the kids.
“The kids were really well-behaved. From everything I could tell, she was a great mom. Her kids were definitely her priority,” Hanecki said.
Sharyn Hakken’s husband, Joshua, also seemed to show few signs of trouble. He attended the U.S. Air Force Academy from 1996 to 1998 but did not graduate, according to academy spokesman Sgt. Vann Miller, who declined to provide further details.
Joshua Hakken also worked as an engineer, employed at one point by Hahn Engineering, Inc. Last year, the couple started their own company, listing Sharyn as president and Joshua as vice president, but it’s unclear what type of business it was.
Then, last year, police in Louisiana came upon a disturbing scene in a hotel room: The Hakkens were inside with drugs and weapons, talking about “completing their ultimate journey” and saying they were traveling across the country to “take a journey to the Armageddon,” Daniel Seuzeneau, a spokesman for Slidell police, said in a news release. Their two children were in the room at the time.
After that arrest, the Hakkens lost custody of the boys, who were initially sent to a foster home. Authorities say Joshua Hakken tried and failed to kidnap them at gunpoint from the home.
Last week, the boys’ maternal grandparents were granted custody. That’s when police say Joshua Hakken broke into the home, tied up his mother-in-law, took the children and eventually set sail for Cuba. An affidavit made public Thursday said Joshua Hakken used flex cuffs to tie his mother-in-law to a filing cabinet in her house.
Federal, state and local authorities searched by air and sea for the sailboat Joshua Hakken had recently purchased. They were found in Cuba, thanks to a crucial tip from the person who sold the boat to Hakken.