HAVANA/ MIAMI — A Florida couple suspected of kidnapping their two sons from the woman’s parents in Tampa have fled by boat to Cuba, according to Florida authorities.
The boys had been living since last year with their maternal grandparents, who were granted permanent custody a week ago.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office alleges that Joshua Michael Hakken entered his mother-in-law’s house north of Tampa last Wednesday, tied her up and fled with his sons, 4-year-old Cole and 2-year-old Chase.
They issued an arrest warrant for Hakken on charges of kidnapping and several other counts.
He 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 sheriff’s office says it has received information that the Hakken family had arrived in Cuba. Investigators say they’re working with the FBI and the US State Department to verify their reports.
Cuba does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.
The US Interest Section in Cuba released its own statement, saying it is aware of this case and it’s in contact with local authorities.
“US officials are providing all appropriate assistance to the family,” the statement said. “Because of privacy reasons, we are unable to provide any additional information.”
Detectives suspect Hakken, an experienced sailor, had drawn up an elaborate getaway plan, buying a boat a few weeks ago that can accommodate four people comfortably.
A truck that Hakken, his wife Sharyn and the boys had been travelling in was found late Thursday, abandoned in a parking garage in Madeira Beach. Authorities say they had been searching the entire Gulf coast from Pensacola to the Keys and the Intracoastal Waterway. An Amber Alert for the boys was also issued in Florida, Louisiana and other states. (USA Today)