'Back to normal' for abducted kids, grandmother says
POSTED: Thursday, April 11, 2013 - 1:00pm
UPDATED: Thursday, April 11, 2013 - 1:04pm
CNN — The two boys abducted by their parents and taken to Cuba were "well cared for" on their trip, their grandmother told reporters Thursday.
The children, Chase and Cole, don't know they were abducted, Patricia Hauser said. All they know is they were on an "adventure," she said.
The boys - 2 and 4 - appeared in front of reporters after Hauser spoke, smiling and showing off toys.
"We have not asked the boys anything about the journey. We are just letting them tell us as things come out if they feel like talking," said Hauser, who along with her husband was given legal custody of the children April 2.
A day later, police say, their father, Josh Hakken, broke into the home where the boys were living with their grandparents, tying up their grandmother before whisking the two children away. Authorities say the traveled to Cuba on a sailboat.
Authorities reunited the boys with Hauser and her husband on Wednesday after Cuban authorities turned them over to U.S. officials.
Hauser thanked U.S. State Department and Cuban officials for their work to find the children and bring them back to Florida.
"They called us from Cuba and let us talk to the boys before their plane even left," she said. "Many tears were shed in that room from us."
She said the family would not have any more news conferences or interviews, and asked that the press and public respect their privacy.
"We are trying very hard to shield the boys from media coverage and we want them to get back to their normal everyday schedules, and just be normal carefree boys again," she said.
According to search warrant documents released Thursday by Florida authorities, Hauser told investigators that Hakken and his wife, Sharyn, had "previously discussed suicide."
The documents, citing the boys' grandmother, also allege the boys' father tied her to a filing cabinet with plastic cable ties before abducting the children "with force."
Earlier Thursday, a Florida judge ruled the Hakkens will remain jailed without bond pending a pretrial detention hearing, which is now scheduled for Friday morning. The hearing was initially planned for Monday.
The judge also appointed a public defender to represent the couple after they said they wouldn't be able to pay for a lawyer on their own.
Given Florida sentencing guidelines, a conviction on the kidnapping charges alone could mean the Hakkens will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.
Police: Parents talked of 'journey to the Armageddon'
The circumstances leading up to the ordeal began in June when the family was staying at a hotel in Slidell, Louisiana.
Responding to a call, police officers found the parents "acting in a bizarre manner," Slidell police said in a statement.
Inside the room where the boys were, they found narcotics and weapons.
"They were talking about 'completing their ultimate journey' and were traveling across the country to 'take a journey to the Armageddon,'" police said about the parents.
Louisiana authorities took the children from their parents after that incident.
About two weeks later, their father showed up at a foster family home "with a firearm demanding the return of his children," Slidell police said. He fled after the foster parents called 911.
Over subsequent months, the parents "did not participate in the system," said Sheriff David Gee of Hillsborough County. He did not offer details.
"As a result of that, the authorities in Louisiana gave custody to the grandparents," he said.
That transfer became official on April 2, when a Louisiana judge terminated the suspects' parental rights.
Early the next morning, Patricia Hauser told police, Josh Hakken entered her Florida home, tied her up and sped away with the children and the family dog in a silver 2009 Toyota Camry.
They met up with Sharyn Hakken, sheriff's investigators said, and eventually ended up on a 25-foot sailboat named Salty.
The boat's seller later tipped off authorities after word got out about the alleged abduction.
It was at the Hemingway Marina just west of Havana, on Tuesday, that CNN found the family -- hunkered inside the boat, under the watch of Cuban security forces.
That morning, U.S. officials in Havana told CNN that they were afraid the children could be in danger from their parents.
Armed Cuban security agents watched over the family most of the day until the parents and children were led away peacefully that afternoon.
Boys 'fine, happy and sleepy' on return to U.S.
Cuba and the United States are divided by far more than the Straits of Florida. But this week, U.S. officials repeatedly expressed their appreciation for the Cuban government's "extensive cooperation."
The Cuban Foreign Ministry said the boat pulled into the marina in bad weather Sunday.
The two governments shared information, which led to the return of the family and their dog to the United States.
During their flight back, they were accompanied by Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office detectives and U.S. federal and state law enforcement authorities.
U.S. diplomatic officials waited with the family at Havana's airport until a plane carrying American law enforcement officials arrived to return them to Florida.
The two boys were "fine, happy and sleepy" as they boarded the plane, the sheriff's office said. The aircraft touched down about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday at Tampa International Airport.
Later, the boys and dog were reunited with the grandparents.