Cuba to turn Amber Alert parents over to US

UPDATE 12:00 midnight:  Authorities confirm that federal  agents have arrived in Havana to transport the family to the United States.  Officials say the mother, Sharyn Hakken, will also be charged in the abduction.
Earlier story below:
Cuba said Tuesday that it will turn over to the United States a Florida couple who allegedly kidnapped their own children from the mother's parents and fled by boat to Havana, ending days of drama that recalled the Elian Gonzalez custody battle of more than a decade ago.
Foreign Ministry official Johana Tablada told The Associated Press in a written statement Tuesday that Cuba had informed U.S. authorities of the country's decision to turn over Joshua Michael Hakken, his wife Sharyn, and their two young boys. She did not say when the handover would occur.
An AP reporter spotted the family earlier Tuesday beside their boat at Havana's Hemingway Marina. A man who resembled photographs of Joshua Michael Hakken yelled out "Stop! Stay back!" as the reporter approached, but the family appeared to interact normally with each other.
Tablada said the Foreign Ministry had informed U.S. diplomats on the island "of the Cuban government's willingness to turn over ... U.S. citizens Joshua Michael Hakken, his wife Sharyn Patricia and their two minor sons."
She said Cuba tipped the State Department off to the Hakkens' presence on Sunday and that from that moment "diplomatic contact has been exchanged and a professional and constant communication has been maintained."
U.S. authorities say Joshua Michael Hakken kidnapped his sons, 4-year-old Cole and 2-year-old Chase, from his mother-in-law's house north of Tampa. The boys' maternal grandparents had been granted permanent custody of the boys last week.
The U.S. and Cuba share no extradition agreement and the island nation is also not a signatory of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international treaty for governmental cooperation on such cases.
Cuba has harbored U.S. fugitives in the past, though most of those cases date back to the 1960s and 70s, when the island became a refuge for members of the Black Panthers and other militant groups. More recently, dozens of Cuban Medicare fraud fugitives in the U.S. have tried to escape prosecution by returning to the island.
But Cuba has also cooperated with U.S. authorities in returning several criminal fugitives in recent years.
Hakken lost custody of his sons last year after a drug possession arrest in Louisiana and later tried to take the children from a foster home at gunpoint, authorities said. A warrant has been issued for his arrest on two counts of kidnapping; interference with child custody; child neglect; false imprisonment and other charges.
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Hakken entered his mother-in-law's Florida house last Wednesday, tied her up and fled with his sons. Federal, state and local authorities searched by air and sea for a boat Hakken had recently bought. The truck Hakken, his wife and the boys had been traveling in was found Thursday, abandoned in Madeira Beach.
Their flight to Cuba recalls the child custody case that set the two Cold War foes feuding in 1999. That year, 5-year-old Elian Gonzalez was found clinging to an inner tube off Florida after his mothers and others drowned while fleeing Cuba toward American soil. The boy was taken to Miami to live with relatives, but his father in Cuba demanded the boy be sent back.
U.S. courts ultimately ruled Gonzalez should be sent back, though his Miami relatives refused to return him. In April 2000, U.S. federal agents raided the family's home and he was returned to Cuba soon after. He has since grown into a young man and joined a military academy.
At the Havana marina on Tuesday, the family showed no sign they knew a decision about their fate had been made. The four strolled by an outdoor restaurant as security officials kept reporters at a distance.
The youngest child was seated in a stroller and the elder boy sat down on a curb. A woman who resembled Sharyn Hakken was seen on the boat.
Cuban officials told reporters not to take pictures of the family or the boat, which bore the name Salty and had a paw print on its side.
Andrew Zych, a Canadian docked in a sailboat steps away from the Hakkens, said the family had arrived recently and seemed normal.
"I liked the way they played with the kids," he said, adding he was surprised to learn of events in the U.S.
Associated Press writers Christine Armario, Curt Anderson and Kelli Kennedy in Miami; Kevin McGill in New Orleans; and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

The Hakkens were spotted alongside their boat, Salty, docked at Havana's Hemingway Marina. Joshua Michael Hakken told reporters to stay away but the family appeared to be interacting
normally with each other.

Joshua Hakken is accused of abducting his two young boys, Cole and Chase, after he lost custody.  Authorities say he boarded a sailboat along with his boys and wife last Wednesday night and headed out of John's Pass in Madeira Beach.

A massive air and land search by local agencies turned up nothing.  Late Monday, authorities said they received information the Hakkens reached Cuba.

"The first person I saw on the boat was a child," said CNN reporter Patrick Oppman who spoke to ABC Action News over the phone.  "I couldn't make out which child it was."

Oppman said he had gone from marina to marina with his photographer searching for signs of the family.  It was at the last marina, Hemingway Marina, where he spotted the family.  His photographer did manage to take video of the boat and family before Cuban officials told them to stop filming.

"We got in to the Hemingway Marina.  This is really one of the larger marinas in Cuba.  Foreigners come here with their boats.  We are talking luxury yachts and very nice sailboats and then you saw the Hakken's boat which was by far the smallest boat there and looked beat up," Oppman explained.

Worry and concern swirled for days as to whether or not the Hakkens safely traveled through bad weather.  Oppman said the boat looked like it took a beating at sea.

"It didn't look exactly like the those photos that the Hillsborough authorities released.  It looked a lot more scratched up.  You could see where the white had been scratched up.  I really hoped the family had not tried to come here because you look out and see the white caps and just imagine what that is like."

Oppman said he spotted one of the little boys playing aboard the boat but could not identify which one.  He also spotted Sharyn Hakken and briefly spoke with her.

"I said, 'You know people are very worried about if your children were OK.  I said people are very worried about your children.  Are they OK?'  She said yes.  She nodded her head and indicated that both are OK," Oppman said.

Also spotted on board was Joshua Hakken.  Oppman said he did approach him and asked him if he was Joshua.

"He said, 'Yeah, I am Josh, who are you?'"

When Oppmann told Hakken he was a reporter, Hakken allegedly got upset and stormed off the boat.

Oppman recently tweeted his sources are telling him U.S. and Cuban officials are cooperating to protect the Hakken children.

Print this article Back to Top