Monday, November 20, 2017
Public safety

Hakken family with kidnapped boys may be on sailboat

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TAMPA — They could be near Key West, in a cove or far out in the Gulf of Mexico by now.

On Friday, authorities said the man who kidnapped his young children Wednesday is likely with his family on a 25-foot sailboat.

And though the seas were choppy during Thursday's storms, deputies say 35-year-old Joshua Hakken knows how to sail. Surveillance video even recorded him loading supplies onto the boat Wednesday, indicating the escape was planned.

The U.S. Coast Guard and state marine units were scouring the water Friday. Civilian boaters also got a description of the sailboat on their radios' emergency channel:

"All vessels in the area are requested to keep a sharp lookout," the message said. "Do not approach the vessel. The occupants are considered armed and dangerous."

For sheriff's deputies, it all came together late Thursday. Authorities got a tip that Joshua Hakken's black pickup truck was in the John's Pass parking garage at 12901 Gulf Blvd. in Madeira Beach.

Deputies then pulled footage from a surveillance camera that showed the couple boarding a sailboat behind a nearby Madeira Beach house Wednesday. Deputies released still photos from the video, which showed the couple preparing to sail.

Investigators canvassed the area with the photos and found a witness who remembered seeing the boat pass under the John's Pass Bridge on Wednesday — just a few hours after the abduction.

At the time, the witness didn't think anything of it. He didn't know that the man sailing the boat was accused of tying up his mother-in-law at her house, north of Tampa, and kidnapping his boys, ages 4 and 2.

Hakken and his wife, Sharyn Hakken, had their parental rights severed Tuesday after authorities reported several bizarre incidents.

The couple has previously been suicidal, according to court records, and when police found them in a Slidell, La., hotel in June, they were talking about taking a "journey to Armageddon."

They boys were with them in their hotel room, and Joshua Hakken had marijuana, a gun and a large knife, police say. Police arrested him on drug-related charges and put the children in foster care.

About two weeks later, authorities say, Joshua Hakken showed up at the foster home in Hammond, La., with a gun, demanding his children. He left after the foster mother called 911.

On Wednesday, as Joshua Hakken took the children, his mother-in-law heard him say: "Phase one completed. Ready for phase two."

It's unclear what "phase two" might include, deputies said.

The boat is a 1972 Morgan 25-foot sailboat with a blue hull, white mainsail and the word "Salty" painted on the back.

It can travel up to 7 mph in good winds, according to Joe Caver of St. Petersburg.

Caver, 59, owned that particular sailboat for a decade but sold it about two years ago. He was shocked to see it in the news Friday.

He says the boat can travel 50 miles a day and would have easily held up against Thursday's bad weather. Central Florida had rain, lightning and 2- to 3-foot waves in the gulf, according to Bay News 9 meteorologist Brian McClure.

"This one sails great," Caver said. "I've had it out in 8-foot waves and had fun with it."

On Friday afternoon, it had been about 60 hours since the Hakkens were spotted in John's Pass. They could easily be 100 miles out by now, Caver said.

Deputies have notified law enforcement along Florida's coast, in case the family stops to get supplies or refuel. (Sailboats have motors, too.)

Caver said he doesn't envy the family and hopes they're safe.

"They're going to be tired, they're going to be hungry," Caver said. "They're going to be fussing with each other."

"It's like camping in a pickup truck," he said. "They better like each other."

The Coast Guard has worked on operations similar to this before.

In 2009, they searched the gulf for a father who ran off with his 3-year-old son during a supervised visit, just days after the state accused him of physically abusing the boy.

They believed Paul Martikainen sailed out of a St. Petersburg marina but did not know if he knew how to sail.

The search was hampered by severe storms, but authorities found Martikainen two days later and surrounded his boat. The boy was safely returned to his mother.

Authorities ask that anyone with information on the Hakkens' whereabouts call local law enforcement. Hillsborough deputies can be reached at (813) 247-8200.

Times news researcher John Martin and staff writers Dan Sullivan and Kameel Stanley contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

     
   
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