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Love letter from jail adds twist to Hakken case

Sharyn and Joshua Hakken stand as their lawyers speak before Hillsborough County Judge Chet Tharpe during a hearing at the Hillsborough County Courthouse in downtown Tampa on Aug. 12.


Sharyn and Joshua Hakken stand as their lawyers speak before Hillsborough County Judge Chet Tharpe during a hearing at the Hillsborough County Courthouse in downtown Tampa on Aug. 12.

TAMPA — In late August, Sharyn Hakken wrote an 18-page love letter from the Falkenburg Road Jail. The 34-year-old Tampa woman, accused with her husband of kidnapping her sons and fleeing on a sailboat to Cuba, said she was in a heartsick mood.

"I hope I dream about you tonight," she wrote. "I need to see you and feel you. I love you. Ugh I so badly wish we could hold each other right now. I wanna play with your hair!" She continued, "I am so super excited about our future together."

The letter was not addressed to her husband, Joshua Hakken, the man with whom she had undertaken a desperate escapade to regain their two children. It was instead sent to a 26-year-old woman, arrested on a probation violation charge, whom Sharyn Hakken had met in jail.

The letter, with its intimations of an extramarital romance born behind bars, was among more than 1,500 pages of documents and photographs related to the Hakkens' criminal case released Monday by the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office. It was the latest unexpected twist in a routinely unpredictable case, offering new signs of a rift between the couple that might complicate their defense strategy.

Joshua and Sharyn Hakken are both in jail awaiting trial on felony charges including kidnapping, false imprisonment and child abuse. Authorities say the couple, both engineers, abducted their sons, now 3 and 5, from Sharyn Hakken's parents in April after a court stripped their parental rights. The four traveled to Cuba in a sailboat but were apprehended and flown back to the United States. The boys were reunited with their grandparents.

The Tampa Bay Times last month obtained and reported on many of the newly released documents. Among them are extensive law enforcement records indicating that both Hakkens suffered from mental illness and held paranoid views of the government.

The documents also revealed that Joshua Hakken, 35, told police in Louisiana last year — during a drug arrest that eventually led to the termination of his and Sharyn Hakken's parental rights — that he beat his wife to purge spirits from her body and "bring her back to reality."

The evidence of spousal abuse suggested that the Hakkens could be parting ways in their joint defense strategy. Legal experts say Sharyn Hakken could plausibly argue that she was coerced into criminal acts by a menacing husband.

In that context, Sharyn Hakken's expressions of romantic love for a fellow jail inmate could be further evidence of problems in the Hakkens' relationship.

But Bryant Camareno, Sharyn Hakken's attorney, cautioned against reading too much into the letter.

"That letter, in my opinion, has no bearing on the case," Camareno said. "I can't confirm or deny that she's having this relationship. I've never really asked her about it."

Joshua Hakken's attorney did not return calls for comment.

According to court and jail records, the woman was incarcerated from July 2 to July 30 on a charge of violating probation for dealing in stolen property.

A woman at the Tampa address listed in the letter declined to comment Monday.

It is unclear from the jail correspondence whether Sharyn Hakken's feelings were requited, though she refers to the woman she calls her "soul mate" visiting her at least two times.

"I've been nervous that yours and my relationship could hurt my case in some way and that my lawyer would find out and tell me to stop talking to you," Sharyn Hakken wrote. "I don't think I'd be able to!"

Staff writer Dan Sullivan and news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Peter Jamison can be reached at or (813) 226-3337. Follow him on Twitter @petejamison.

Love letter from jail adds twist to Hakken case 09/23/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 12:33am]
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