Discuss as:

Couple who allegedly abducted children return from Cuba

Roberto Leon / NBC News

Sharyn Hakken is escorted by a state security officer at the Hemingway Marina in Havana on Tuesday.

A couple accused of abducting their two young sons from their grandmother in Florida sailed with them to Cuba before being flown back to the U.S. early Wednesday.

Cuban authorities confirmed that Joshua Hakken, 35, and Sharyn Hakken, 34, arrived in the island nation in their sailboat the Salty Paw on Sunday. They notified the U.S. the next day and decided on Tuesday morning to turn over the couple and the kids, a government statement said.

Security agents escorted the family from the marina later in the day. NBC station WFLA reported that a flight carrying the family arrived in Tampa early Wednesday. 

"Our understanding is they're doing well," Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee told WFLA.

The boys, 2 and 4, had been living with their grandmother in Tampa after their parents lost custody of them. Police say Joshua Hakken entered the grandmother's house in the early morning of April 3, tied her up and took the children. 

Desmond Boylan / Reuters

"Salty," a boat believed to belong to Joshua and Sharyn Hakken, sits at the Marina Hemingway complex in Havana, Cuba, on Tuesday.

After evading Amber alerts in Florida and Tennessee and Coast Guard boats searching the Gulf of Mexico, the Hakkens made their way to Cuba in the 25-foot blue-and-white sailboat, arriving in bad weather, authorities said.

Even though the U.S. does not have formal relations with Cuba, Havana officials communicated with the U.S. Interests Section and the State Department "to try to guarantee the integrity and well-being of those minors," the statement said.

The boys had been placed in foster care after Joshua Hakken was arrested in a Louisiana hotel room in 2012 on charges including drug possession, according to police in Slidell, La. Sharyn and Joshua Hakken told officers that they planned to “take a journey to the Armageddon” at the time of the arrest, Slidell police said.

The children were there when the parents were arrested, police said, and several weapons were taken from the room

Terri Durdaller, a spokeswoman at the Florida Department of Children and Families, told The Associated Press it was not clear where the children would be placed when they returned to American soil.

"Louisiana is the ultimate decision maker on where these children will reside. It's likely they will be placed back in Florida with the grandmother," she said.

NBC News' Craig Giammona contributed to this report.


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

 Pickup found in suspected Florida double kidnapping

 Amber alert issued for Tampa siblings




This story was originally published on