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Parents to appear in court after allegedly abducting kids, sailing to Cuba

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Posted at 8:37 AM, Apr 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-11 08:37:03-04

Florida abducted kids

By Greg Botelho and Mariano Castillo

(CNN) — Two parents accused of abducting their two sons and sailing to Cuba will make their first court appearance in Florida on Thursday to face charges of kidnapping, auto theft and child neglect.

Josh and Sharyn Hakken spent Wednesday in Florida’s Hillsborough County jail after U.S. authorities brought the family back from Cuba.

The two children, Chase and Cole, are with their grandparents in Tampa, where they were living before the alleged kidnapping on April 3.

Police say their father broke into the home and tied up their grandmother before whisking the two children away — one day after he and his wife lost their parental rights.

The parents sailed to Cuba with the two boys ages 2 and 4, triggering an international manhunt that ended this week.

Given Florida sentencing guidelines, a conviction on the kidnapping charges alone could mean the Hakkens will spend the rest of their life behind bars.

Police: Parents talked of ‘journey to the Armageddon’

The Hakkens’ ordeal began in June when the family was staying at a hotel in Slidell, Louisiana.

Responding to a call, police officers found the parents “acting in a bizarre manner,” Slidell police said in a statement.

Inside the room where the boys were, they found narcotics and weapons.

“They were talking about ‘completing their ultimate journey’ and were traveling across the country to ‘take a journey to the Armageddon’,” police said about the parents.

Louisiana authorities took the children from their parents following that incident.

About two weeks later, their father showed up at a foster family home “with a firearm demanding the return of his children,” Slidell police said. He fled after the foster parents called 9-1-1.

Over subsequent months, the parents “did not participate in the system,” said Sheriff David Gee of Hillsborough County. He did not offer details.

“As a result of that, the authorities in Louisiana gave custody to the grandparents,” he said.

That transfer became official on April 2, when a Louisiana judge terminated the suspects’ parental rights.

Early the next morning, Patricia Hauser told police that Josh Hakken entered her Florida home, tied her up and sped away with the children and the family dog in a silver 2009 Toyota Camry.

They met up with Sharyn Hakken, sheriff’s investigators said, and eventually ended up on a 25-foot sailboat named Salty.

The boat’s seller later tipped off authorities after word got out about the alleged abduction.

It was at the Hemingway Marina, on Tuesday, that CNN found the family — hunkered inside the boat, under the watch of Cuban security forces.

That morning, U.S. officials in Havana told CNN that they were afraid the children could be in danger from their parents.

Armed Cuban security agents watched over the family most of the day until it was led away peacefully that afternoon.

Boys’ ‘fine, happy and sleepy’ on return to U.S.

Cuba and the United States are divided by far more than the Straits of Florida.

But this week, U.S. officials repeatedly expressed their appreciation for the Cuban government’s “extensive cooperation.”

The Cuban foreign ministry said the boat pulled into a marina just west of Havana in bad weather Sunday.

“From the first moment,” the two governments began exchanging information. To that point, FBI spokesman Dave Couvertier said the U.S. State Department learned about the family’s whereabouts from Cuban authorities.

That led to the return of the family and their dog to the United States.

During their flight, they were accompanied by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office detectives and U.S. federal and state law enforcement authorities.

U.S. diplomatic officials waited with the family at Havana’s airport until a plane carrying American law enforcement officials arrived to return them to Florida.

The two boys were “fine, happy and sleepy” as they boarded the plane, the sheriff’s office said. The aircraft touched down about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday at Tampa International Airport.

Some time later, the boys and dog were reunited with the grandparents.

CNN’s Patrick Oppmann, Kim Segal and John Zarrella contributed to this report.

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