TAMPA — The clean-cut neighbor who walked his "adorable" preschool son across the street to buy an aquarium at Stephanie Coates' garage sale a year ago bears little resemblance to the bearded fugitive detectives were hunting Wednesday night.
Joshua Hakken, authorities said, lost custody of his two sons last year after a drug-possession arrest in Louisiana. He later tried to take them from a foster home at gunpoint, officials said.
On Wednesday, one day after being stripped of his parental rights, he went to his mother-in-law's home north of Tampa, tied her up with zip ties and kidnapped his sons, ages 2 and 4, authorities said.
"Maybe something happened to him," Coates said. "He doesn't seem like the same guy."
What happened is what detectives are trying to determine.
Authorities said Hakken, 35, broke into Patricia Hauser's house at 14040 Shady Shores Drive at 6:40 a.m. Wednesday, moments after her husband, Robert, had left for his job as director of Pinellas County's solid waste division.
After tying her up, authorities said, Hakken rounded up his sons, 2-year-old Chase and 4-year-old Cole, still in their pajamas, and drove away in Hauser's Toyota Camry.
About two hours later, Hauser freed herself and called 911.
Hauser's car was found a few blocks from her home. Detectives think Hakken and the boys are now traveling in his black 2006 GMC Sierra pickup truck, which has a University of South Florida vanity plate with tag number U95KT.
Detectives also think the children's mother, Sharyn Patricia Hakken, 34, might have dropped her husband off at her mother's house and was waiting in the pickup truck when he came out with their sons.
Authorities issued a statewide alert and said the parents may be armed. "We do feel that they are in danger," sheriff's Cpl. Kevin Bodie said of the boys.
The Sheriff's Office said it had obtained a warrant for Joshua Hakken's arrest on two counts of kidnapping, two counts of interference with child custody, two counts of child neglect, one count of false imprisonment, one count of burglary and battery and one count of grand theft auto.
The agency said no charges have yet been sought against Sharyn Hakken.
The children had been living with their grandparents since last year. They were taken from their parents after an altercation in Louisiana, authorities said.
Joshua Hakken was arrested in a hotel there on drug charges — apparently with his children present — after attending an "antigovernment" rally, the Sheriff's Office said.
Sometime after the arrest, the state of Louisiana took custody of the children and placed them in foster care. But Hakken showed up at the foster care facility waving a gun and banging on the door, the Sheriff's Office said. He wasn't able to get in and fled.
On Tuesday, a Louisiana court notified the Hakkens that it had terminated their parental rights.
Bodie said Joshua Hakken is an engineer who owns a business in South Tampa. Both Hakkens have been certified as engineers — mechanical for him, civil for her — but records show both licenses expired in February.
In February 2012, someone writing as "SailingBull" posted to the website for Adam vs. The Man, a forum "about challenging authority, sticking it to the man, and giving the millennial generation a voice."
"My name is Joshua Hakken," he wrote. "I am a father, a registered professional mechanical engineer and a veteran of the USAF. I am absolutely devoted to life, liberty, the rights of the individual and the Constitution of the United States of America. "
After saying that he had noticed that "things here in Florida have not added up for quite some time," he concluded, "in these crazy times, maintaining open communication lines for ideas, observations and news is absolutely crucial if the 'good guys' are to be successful in surviving to maintain the fight of ideas."
The Hakkens own a home in the Virginia Park neighborhood south of Palma Ceia. As detectives searched the home Wednesday evening, neighbors recalled a family that didn't stand out.
"Like normal neighbors," said computer programmer Robert Lucas, 38, who lives behind the Hakkens. "Not outgoing, but they didn't seem like bad people at all."
On a few occasions, Joshua Hakken chatted with neighbor Lindsay Fleming about being an engineer or watched jets from the MacDill Air Force Base AirFest.
The Hakkens were USF fans who flew green-and-gold flags on game day and sometimes had a few friends over.
But one day, the couple had their sons out on their semi-circular lot along Sterling Avenue. One was young enough to have a stroller, and the parents were smoking marijuana, Fleming said. Mrs. Hakken asked Fleming if he wanted a hit, but Joshua Hakken seemed uncomfortable with the offer, Fleming said.
Neighbors remembered the Hakkens keeping a pop-up camper and a sailboat in their driveway. Wednesday night, both were gone.
Times researcher John Martin and staff writer Anna M. Phillips contributed to this report.