US couple in jail after fleeing to Cuba with kids

TAMPA, Fla. — Joshua and Sharyn Hakken seemed to have a charmed life, doting on their two young boys, buying a comfortable home, and building successful careers as engineers. It all derailed last year, when police in Louisiana found the family inside a hotel room with drugs, weapons, and promises from the parents to take ‘‘a journey to the Armageddon.’’

The couple is now jailed on charges they kidnapped the boys from their grandparents in Florida and sailed to Cuba on a boat called ‘‘Salty’’ to elude US authorities. The family arrived in Florida early Wednesday morning, accompanied by federal, state, and local authorities after being handed over by Cuban officials. Four-year-old Cole and 2-year-old Chase are now with their grandparents, and their parents are in jail, closing a bizarre ordeal that began with an Amber Alert and ended with diplomatic intervention.

Friends of the couple said the family seemed happy and had no marital problems.


‘‘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,’’ said Darrell Hanecki, who employed Sharyn Hakken for nearly a decade at Hanecki Consulting Engineers. “It’s very bizarre.’’

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He said Sharyn Hakken was pragmatic and responsible, graduating from the University of South Florida in 2008. She occasionally gave advice to Hanecki’s daughter, an aspiring engineer, and encouraged her to finish her degree.

She resigned in 2011, saying it was too difficult to juggle work with caring for an infant and toddler.

Sharyn Hakken’s husband, Joshua, also seemed to show few signs of trouble. He attended the US Air Force Academy from 1996 to 1998 but did not graduate, according to academy spokesman Sergeant Vann Miller.

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 to comment. Last year, the Hakkens started their own company, listing Sharyn as president and Joshua as vice president, but it is 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. Federal, state, and local authorities searched by air and sea for the sailboat Joshua Hakken had recently purchased. The Hakkens were found in Cuba, thanks to a crucial tip from the person who sold the boat to Hakken.