Cuba to turn over Florida couple who allegedly abducted children - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Cuba to turn over Florida couple who allegedly abducted children

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Desmond Boylan / Reuters Desmond Boylan / Reuters
Desmond Boylan / Reuters Desmond Boylan / Reuters
By Matthew DeLuca, Staff Writer, NBC News

CUBA (NBC) -- A couple who allegedly abducted their two young sons from Florida fled to Cuba, which announced Tuesday that it will return the family to the United States.

Cuban authorities confirmed that Joshua Hakken, 35, and Sharyn Hakken, 34, arrived in the island nation in their sailboat the Salty Paw on Sunday. They notified the U.S. the next day and decided to turn over the couple and their kids on Tuesday morning, a government statement said.

The boys, 2 and 4, had been living with their grandmother in Tampa.

Police say Joshua Hakken entered the house in the early morning April 3, tied up the grandmother and took the boys.

The two boys were placed in foster care after Joshua Hakken was arrested in a Louisiana hotel room in 2012 on charges including drug possession, according to police in Slidell, La. Sharyn and Joshua Hakken told officers that they planned to "take a journey to the Armageddon" at the time of the arrest, Slidell police said.

The children were there when the parents were arrested, police said, and several weapons were taken from the room.

The Hakkens made their way to Cuba by sea, in bad weather, after evading Amber alerts in Florida and Tennessee last week.

The State Department does not have formal relations with Cuba, but the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba, which acts as a de facto mission on the island, said in a statement it was aware of the case.

"U.S. officials are providing all appropriate assistance to the family," the Interests Section said. "Because of privacy reasons, we are unable to provide any additional information. One of the department's highest priorities is the welfare of U.S. citizens overseas. This is particularly true for children, who are our most vulnerable citizens. The department works with parents and foreign governments to resolve these difficult cases."

The Coast Guard searched the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend for the family and issued a bulletin to boaters.

Authorities had been on the lookout for a 25-foot sailboat with a blue hull and white sail, according to the sheriff's office. Called "Salty," the boat had a white paw print painted on the hull.

Witnesses saw Joshua Hakken stocking the boat with food and water over several days, Hillsborough County sheriff's spokesman  Det. Larry McKinnon said.

NBC News' Craig Giammona contributed to this report.

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