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Hakken Kidnapping: Florida couple in jail after fleeing to Cuba with kidnapped kids, authorities say

Booking photos of Joshua and Sharyn Hakken. The couple is expected to make first appearance on Thursday, April 11, 2013 in Hillsborough County Court. Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

Joshua and Sharyn Hakken
Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

(CBS/AP) MIAMI - A Florida couple accused of kidnapping their two young sons and fleeing to Cuba have been handed over to the United States, where they were sent to jail and their children returned to the custody of their grandparents, authorities said Wednesday.

Pictures: Hakken Kidnapping

Joshua and Sharyn Hakken were held at the Hillsborough County Jail on a number of charges including kidnapping, child neglect and interference with custody, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

The couple is expected to make their first appearance on Thursday in Hillsborough County Court. David Couvertier, a spokesman for the FBI in Tampa, said the couple will not face federal charges.

U.S. authorities said Joshua Hakken kidnapped his sons, 4-year-old Cole and 2-year-old Chase, from his mother-in-law's house north of Tampa, Fla., on April 3. Hakken allegedly entered the Florida house, tied her up and fled with his sons. 

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. The grandparents had recently been granted custody. 

"Our grandchildren are safe," the grandfather, Bob Hauser, told a news conference with the sheriff's office late Tuesday. "We had an opportunity to talk with them before they left Cuba."

Bob and his wife, Patricia Hauser, asked the news media to give them at least 24 hours alone with the boys, the sheriff's department said. They planned to make a public statement possibly by Thursday.

Cuba tipped the State Department off to the Hakkens' presence Sunday, and from that moment "diplomatic contact has been exchanged and a professional and constant communication has been maintained," Cuban Foreign Ministry official Johana Tablada said in a statement.

An AP reporter spotted the couple and the children beside their boat at the Hemingway Marina in Havana on Tuesday. A man who resembled photographs of Joshua Hakken yelled out "Stop! Stay back!" as the reporter approached, but there was no outward sign of tension or distress between the family members.

The family showed no sign that 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.

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 also cooperated with U.S. authorities in returning several criminal fugitives in recent years, including Leonard Auerbach in 2008. Auerbach was wanted in California on federal charges of sexually abusing a Costa Rican girl and possessing child pornography. He was deported.

In 2011, U.S. marshals flew to Cuba and took custody of two U.S. suspects wanted in a New Jersey slaying.

Complete coverage of the Hakken kidnapping on Crimesider

  • Crimesider Staff

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