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US couple in jail after fleeing to Cuba with kids

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 11, 2013 at 4:38 am •  Published: April 11, 2013

The couple may have believed they could find refuge there, but experts said Cuba had little to gain politically by holding them. The communist island shares no extradition agreement with the U.S., and relations between the two have been icy for decades. But Cuban officials said Tuesday they would hand over the family.

The blinds at the Hakken household were drawn tight Wednesday. An "" bumper sticker was pasted on their mailbox, a reference to conservative radio personality Alex Jones' Web site.

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.

Other neighbors said they rarely saw the Hakkens in the neighborhood, which some described as not being particularly social.

Lindsay Fleming, who lives two doors down from the Hakkens, recalled last speaking to the Hakkens about a year ago outside their homes during an annual air show put on by nearby MacDill Air Force Base.

Fleming said Sharyn Hakken offered him marijuana in front of her kids.

"They were smoking pot and they offered me some, at least his wife did," Fleming said. "(Joshua) was like, 'Don't do that!'"

The Hakkens were jailed Wednesday at the Hillsborough County Jail on charges of kidnapping, child neglect, and interference with custody, according to the jail's website. Joshua Hakken also was charged with false imprisonment. His bond was set at $154,000. No bond information was listed for Sharyn Hakken.

The public defender's office declined to comment. The couple will not face federal charges, said David Couvertier, a spokesman for the FBI in Tampa.

The children were "happy and sleepy" on a flight back to the U.S., sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said in an email. They and the family dog, Nati, are with their grandparents until child welfare officials can again review the case in light of the abduction.

Their grandfather, Bob Hauser, said at a news conference late Tuesday that he had spoken with the boys before they left Cuba. He and his wife asked the media to leave them alone for 24 hours so they could spend time with their grandchildren.

Nancy Weining, who said she is an acquaintance of the Hausers, called them a "wonderful family." She said the Hausers had lost touch with their daughter and son-in-law after the Hakkens lost custody of their boys.

"I knew they had left them with them and nobody knew where they were," Weining said. "Everybody was looking for them, trying to figure out where they were."


Kennedy reported from Miami. Associated Press writers Kevin McGill in New Orleans; Paul Haven and Peter Orsi in Havana; and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.


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