TAMPA — The lawyer for a Tampa woman accused of kidnapping her sons and taking them to Cuba is seeking to have her psychologically evaluated for signs that she was mentally ill and coerced into the unusual scheme by her husband.
Sharyn Hakken, 34, and Joshua Hakken, 35, are charged with felony kidnapping, false imprisonment and child abuse, among other offenses. Authorities say the pair abducted their children from Sharyn Hakken's mother after a court terminated their parental rights, boarded a boat in Madeira Beach and sailed to Cuba.
The Tampa Bay Times reported this month that a split could be emerging in the couple's defense strategy, since newly disclosed evidence indicates that Joshua Hakken told police that he beat and choked his wife.
Now Bryant Camareno, Sharyn Hakken's attorney, has filed a motion asking Hillsborough Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe to appoint a psychologist to examine her.
Camareno said in an interview that he wants a medical expert to determine "whether she was sane at the time all these events transpired." He said he expects the psychologist to pay special attention for signs of Stockholm syndrome — a condition in which abuse victims form an attachment to their captors — or battered-spouse syndrome.
"The theory is that she was pushed" into the bizarre caper that unfolded over the past year, Camareno said.
That journey began in June 2012, when police in Slidell, La., were called to a motel with reports of a woman running down a hallway and knocking on strangers' doors.
The woman was Sharyn Hakken, who according to a police report had "multiple bruises on her body and bumps on her head, where it looked like she was beaten." She was "yelling about how she was a ninja in the witness protection program and how her friend reprogrammed her brain," the report states.
Sharyn Hakken was detained for a psychiatric evaluation. Joshua Hakken was in a motel room smelling of marijuana smoke with the couple's boys, then 2 and 4. He told police that he "beat his wife to 'bring her back to reality' because spirits would take over her body and talk through her," and said he "choked Sharyn to the point of unconsciousness before to relieve her of the spirits."
Weeks later, authorities say, he showed up with a gun at a foster home in Louisiana demanding that his children be returned, but ended up fleeing without them. A Louisiana court terminated the Hakkens' parental rights this year.
The couple sought political asylum in Cuba, claiming the U.S. government was persecuting them, but Cuban officials gave American authorities permission to fly them back to Florida. The pair are awaiting trial at the Falkenburg Road jail.
It is unclear whether Joshua Hakken will undergo a psychological assessment. His attorney, Jorge Chalela, declined to comment.
An FBI assessment of the Hakkens created while they were international fugitives stated that "it is possible that Joshua and Sharyn have a 'shared delusional system,' with Joshua being the dominant personality."
Peter Jamison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3337. Follow him on Twitter @petejamison.