Two young boys, allegedly abducted by their parents last week and taken to Cuba, were frolicking and mugging for reporters Thursday outside the Florida home of their grandparents, who have legal custody of the children.
“When you are in the middle of a nightmare, it’s kind of hard to do a whole lot,” Bob Hauser, the boys’ grandfather, told reporters at a nationally televised news conference. “We knew we would get through it.”
Four-year-old Cole and 2-year-old Chase Hakken are back with the Hausers, their maternal grandparents. The children and the family’s aged dog were taken to Cuba by the boys’ parents, Joshua and Sharyn Hakken, after they lost a custody battle.
“There were big group hugs all over,” grandmother Patricia Hauser told reporters, describing the reunion Wednesday. “We were smiling ear to ear and hugging each other.”
The boys, who are in good health, don’t really know they were kidnapped, Patricia Hauser said. “We haven’t told them they were abducted. We’re treating it just like vacation.”
Patricia Hauser said the boys had some bug bites, the only evidence of their adventure. The grandparents said they want to get the children back to their normal routines and “just [let them] be carefree little boys again.”
The boys were briefly brought out of the Tampa, Fla., home to meet reporters. Cole stuck out his tongue while Chase held onto his toy cars.
The Hakkens made their first court appearance Thursday morning in Tampa, where they were ordered held by Judge Walter Heinrich. The parents are not allowed to have any contact with their children or any witnesses.
The couple will be back in court Friday for a hearing on the charges, which include kidnapping, child neglect, false imprisonment, burglary and interference with custody.
The family at one time had a promising future. Both parents are engineers and had started their own company.
Sharyn Hakken graduated from the University of South Florida in 2008. Her husband attended the U.S. Air Force Academy from 1996 to 1998 but did not graduate, according to the school.
Last year, police in Slidell, La., said they found the Hakkens inside a hotel room with drugs and weapons. The boys were sent to a foster home.
Last week, the Hausers were granted custody of the boys.
Florida police said Joshua Hakken broke into the Hausers’ home, tied up his mother-in-law, took the children and eventually set sail for Cuba, believing they would find sanctuary there.
But Cuban officials turned the family over to U.S. authorities who brought them back Wednesday.