Chase Hakken, 2, left, and his brother Cole Hakken, 4, were allegedly abducted by their father, Joshua Hakken, from theTampa home of his mother-in-law, who had legal custody.(Photo: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office via USA Today)
By Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY
Cuba said Tuesday afternoon that it would return a Florida
couple who sailed into Havana with their two sons, whom they are accused
of taking from the boys' maternal grandparents, the Associated Press is
Foreign Ministry official Johana Tablada
said in a written statement Tuesday that U.S. authorities had been
informed that Joshua Michael Hakken, his wife, Sharyn, and their two
young sons would be returned. She did not say when the handover would
The family has been living on their boat in a Havana marina.
The boys had been living since last year with Sharyn Hakken's parents, who were granted permanent custody a week ago.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office alleges that Joshua Hakken
entered his mother-in-law's house north of Tampa on Wednesday, tied her
up and fled with his sons, 4-year-old Cole and 2-year-old Chase.
The sheriff's office has issued an arrest warrant for Hakken on charges of kidnapping and several other counts.
Hakken lost custody of his sons last year after a drug
possession arrest in Louisiana, and he later tried to take them from a
foster home at gunpoint, authorities have said.
Authorities have previously characterized the Hakkens as "anti-government."
sheriff's office says it has received information that the Hakken
family had arrived by boat in Cuba. Investigators say they're working
with the FBI and the U.S. State Department to verify reports.
CNN's Patrick Oppmann, reporting
from Havana, said he saw the Hakken family at a marina, but they
refused to talk to him. He reported that the father, mother and one
child was spotted. He quotes Hakken as saying only that the children are
CNN said the family appeared to be setting up to live on the boat as their home.
Cuba does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.
Nor is Cuba a signatory of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects
of International Child Abduction. That means it will be up to Cuban
authorities on whether to return to them.
The U.S. Interests
Section in Cuba released its own statement, saying it is aware of this
case and it is in contact with local authorities.
are providing all appropriate assistance to the family," the statement
said. "Because of privacy reasons, we are unable to provide any
additional information. One of the department's highest priorities is
the welfare of U.S. citizens overseas. This is particularly true for
children, who are our most vulnerable citizens. The department works
with parents and foreign governments to resolve these difficult cases."
suspect Hakken, an experienced sailor, had drawn up an elaborate
getaway plan, buying a boat a few weeks ago that can accommodate four
people comfortably, WTSP-TV reported.
A truck that
Hakken, wife Sharyn and the boys had been traveling in was found late
Thursday, abandoned in a parking garage in Madeira Beach. Authorities
say they had been searching the entire Gulf Coast from Pensacola to the
Florida Keys, and the Intracoastal Waterway. An Amber Alert for the boys
was issued in Florida, Louisiana and other states.
a South Tampa attorney, Ralph Fernandez, as saying that the U.S. can do
"absolutely nothing" to get the Hakkens back in their custody if the
Cuban government does not want to cooperate.
notes that American fugitive, Joanne Chesimard, a Black Panther
activist convicted of killing a state trooper in New Jersey in 1973,
fled to Cuba after escaping prison and "still flaunts her presence in
President Raul Castro, Fidel Castro's brother,
however, has sent back a few American fugitives, WTSP reports. Among
them was Leonard Auerbach who was deported to face federal charges in
California of sexually abusing a Costa Rican girl and possessing child
Contributing: The Associated Press