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Officials: 'Anti-government' couple may be at sea with kidnapped children

Authorities are searching the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday for a 25-foot sailboat. Onboard is a father who police say has kidnapped his two young sons and may have fled to the open waters. NBC's Charles Hadlock reports.

An “anti-government” man alleged to have kidnapped his two young sons from their grandmother’s house may be trying to escape in a sailboat, according to officials.

Police say that Joshua Hakken, 35, apparently broke into his mother-in-law’s Tampa home after 6 a.m. on Wednesday, tied up his mother-in-law and then fled with the boys, Cole, 4, and Chase, 2.

Cole Hakken, 4, left, and his two-year-old brother, Chase.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said that Joshua Hakken and his wife Sharyn, 34, may be traveling together in a 25-foot, 1972 Morgan sailboat, NBCMiami.com reported Friday.

The vessel is blue and has the name “salty” with a picture of a paw near the back of the hull on each side. It has a white sail with blue trim and its registration number is FL3717BK, the FDLE added.

The United States Coast Guard scoured a swath of sea spreading from Key West to Mobile, Ala. with helicopters and boats on Saturday in an ongoing search, said Petty Officer First Class Crystalynn Kneen, a USCG spokeswoman in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Coast Guard issued an “urgent marine information broadcast” on Friday, Kneen said.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office told NBC station WLFA.com that Hakken had recently bought the boat.

Deputies told the station a witness saw the boat going under the Johns Pass bridge a couple of hours after the abduction Wednesday.

"We've said all along, making irrational decisions doesn't always make you unintelligent. We know he's a very intelligent individual. He's an engineer," Hillsborough County Sheriffs spokesperson, Larry McKinnon, told WFLA.com.

"Wouldn't put it past them to be able to pull into one of these coves or one of these inlets and then board a vehicle. So we're not gonna eliminate our land search, we're still maintaining the Amber alert. We're now expanding it into the Gulf of Mexico, " McKinnon said.

"Hopefully, we're going to find them soon. As we've mentioned before, our goal is to reach out to them in a peaceful manner and to allow them to open an exchange of communication and dialogue so we can get this resolved without anyone getting hurt. "

Craig Johnson, an experience boater and volunteer search and rescue participant, said, "If I was him, he's probably heading towards Cancun or Cuba. If he's going to Cuba, he's gotta go around Key West. That wouldn't be too smart."

In a previous release, the sheriff’s department said that "both suspects are anti-government and have attempted a previous abduction at gun point in Louisiana.” 

Joshua Hakken was arrested in St. Tammany Parish, La. on June 17, 2012 after attending an “anti-government rally,” the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s department said in a press release. He was charged with the unlawful sale of narcotics in the presence of minors and possession of marijuana and spent one day in jail before making bond, said Officer Ben Sciambra of the Slidell city jail.

The couple was acting “in a bizarre manner that alarmed officers” during the arrest, according to press release issued by the Slidell Police Department on April 4. With both children present, the couple told officers that they were “completing their ultimate journey” and planned to “take a journey to the Armageddon,” according to the release.

The Louisiana Office of Child Services determined that the two young children needed to be placed in foster care after the arrest, according to the Slidell Police Department release. Officers also took several weapons at the time of the arrest.

NBC News' Craig Giammona contributed to this report.


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