TAMPA, Fla. – Florida authorities are hoping good weather will improve their chances of tracking down a sailboat that may be carrying two boys kidnapped from their grandparents' home.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says Joshua Michael Hakken entered his mother-in-law's house north of Tampa early Wednesday, tied her up and fled with his sons, 4-year-old Cole and 2-year-old Chase.
Authorities are searching for a boat Hakken recently bought. It's described as having a blue Bimini top, white mainsail, and a blue hull with the word "Salty" and a paw print in white on both sides, with a white stripe near the water line. There is possibly a yellow horseshoe life preserver on deck.
Sheriff's office spokesman Larry McKinnon tells The Tampa Tribune that good weather means more recreational and boaters will be on the water and able to help in the search.
Storms had been moving along the west coast of Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico last week, but conditions improved Saturday and Sunday.
Federal, state and local authorities are searching for the sailboat by sea and air. Pictures of the vessel also have been distributed at local marinas.
Hakken, his wife Sharyn and the boys could be anywhere, McKinnon said. The truck the family had been traveling in was found late Thursday, abandoned in a parking garage in Madeira Beach.
"The Gulf of Mexico is 200,000 square nautical miles," said McKinnon. "We are looking up and down the entire west coast from Pensacola to the Keys and the Intracoastal Waterway. It is a vast area."
Investigators believe Hakken stocked the boat with supplies, but it wasn't known if the couple was armed, McKinnon said. Authorities have previously characterized the Hakkens as "anti-government."
An Amber Alert for the boys has been issued in Florida, Louisiana and other states.
The boys had been living since last year with their maternal grandparents, who were granted permanent custody Tuesday. Joshua 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.
The Hillsborough Sheriff's office has issued an arrest warrant for Joshua Hakken on charges of kidnapping and several other counts.
"We want to hear from them. Let him have a voice. That is very important. He has a voice," McKinnon said. "We certainly can't fix anything if we can't talk to him. We are willing to listen."