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Grandparents: Fla. boys unaware of kidnapping

Caption
(Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Patricia and Robert Hauser escort their grandchildren, Chase Hakken, 2, (second from right) and Cole, 4, out of their house Thursday to speak to the media in Tampa, Fla. The boys were returned to the Hausers, who have legal custody of them, after their parents, Joshua and Sharyn Hakken, kidnapped them and sailed with them to Cuba.

TAMPA, Fla. – Two boys seem unaware their parents kidnapped them and believe their sailing trip to Cuba was a vacation, not an attempt by their mom and dad to flee U.S. authorities, the children’s grandparents said Thursday.

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 had 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 bond. 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 today. Heinrich told the couple they could be ordered to remain in jail without bond until their cases are resolved, depending on the evidence presented at the hearing.

The pretrial detention hearing was requested by special prosecutor Jennifer Johnson, who declined to comment after the hearing on why she asked for it. The Hakkens are being represented by the public defender’s office, which has also declined comment.

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 U.S., sheriff’s spokeswoman Debbie Carter said in an email Wednesday.

Friends of the couple say they seemed to have a charmed 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. It’s very bizarre,” 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. She brought the boys into the office a few times to show them off to her colleagues.

“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. A woman who answered the company’s phone Wednesday declined comment. 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.

The blinds at the Hakken household were drawn tight Wednesday. An “infowars.com” bumper sticker was pasted on their mailbox, a reference to conservative radio personality Alex Jones’ website.

A white SUV was in the driveway where neighbors said they usually saw a small boat parked. The boat was such a common presence that it was noticeable when it disappeared last week, said neighbor Simon Castillo.

“I’m just surprised the little thing made it all the way to Cuba,” Castillo said.

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Associated Press writer Kelli Kennedy contributed to this report from Miami.

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