Published April 09, 2013
A Florida man allegedly kidnapped his two young sons last week after a judge ruled that his parental rights had been revoked.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office reported Monday that it received information that the Hakken family had arrived on the island nation. Joshua Michael Hakken, the alleged kidnapper, is believed to be travelling with his wife, Sharyn Hakken. Authorities say it is unclear if his wife is a suspect or victim.
A Spanish-language newspaper, El Nuevo Herald, reported that the couple is on the island and in custody of immigration officials. Investigators in the U.S., however, say they're working with the FBI and the State Department to verify these reports.
Authorities say Joshua Michael Hakken entered his mother-in-law's house north of Tampa early Wednesday, tied her up and fled with his young sons. The children were sleeping at the time, Cristal Bermudez, a sheriff spokeswoman, told FoxNews.com. He was not armed at the time.
Bermudez said there is an arrest warrant for Joshua Michael Hakken.
Authorities had been searching by air and sea for a 25-foot sailboat Hakken recently purchased. The truck the family had been traveling in was found late Thursday, abandoned in a parking garage in Madeira Beach.
It is unclear why the couple would flee to Cuba. But The Tampa bay Times reported that the 330-mile trip by sailboat would have been arduous. The temperature during the day reaches 90 degrees and some of the swells at sea could reach up to 6 feet.
The boys, ages 4 and 2, had been living with their maternal grandparents, who were granted permanent custody last week.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that police say in June, Joshua Michael Hakkan was acting bizarrely inside a Louisiana hotel room while attending an 'antigovernment' rally. Police say they found marijuana, a gun and a knife in the room.
The boys were put in foster care and police say Joshua Michael Hakken showed up at a foster home in Louisiana waving a gun, the report said. The children, in turn, were sent to live with Sharyn Hakken’s mother, the report said.
The alleged kidnapping occurred a day after the couple was told by a judge that their parental rights had been revoked, The Tampa Bay Times reported.
Tampa attorney Daniel Fernandez said it may be difficult for U.S. authorities to bring the Hakkens back.
"There are fugitives from the United States in Cuba, hundreds of them, that we can't get back to prosecute. So, it's going to be tough," he told MyFoxTampaBay.com.
But he added that diplomacy may improve those chances, because Cuba doesn't have much to gain.
"I think from a diplomatic perspective, they've got nothing to gain and they've got a lot to lose in terms of public relations around the world. So there's a chance that with the right diplomacy the child (children) could be returned," he said.
The last time that the Unites States and Cuba clashed over a custody issue made headlines around the nation and around the world. Elian Gonzales was 6 years old in 1999 when his mother and 12 others fled Cuba in an aluminum boat.
Elian's mother drowned on the way over, and his father back in Cuba demanded he be brought back.
The situation culminated months later in a raid where federal agents seized Elian and returned him to Cuba.
Fox News' Edmund DeMarche and The Associated Press contributed to this report