Joshua and Sharyn Hakken weren’t supposed to know where she lived.
So when they showed up at Elizabeth Monk’s door in Hammond, La., Monk says, she knew something was wrong.
Monk had been a foster mother to the Hakkens’ sons, Chase and Cole, after Joshua Hakken was arrested and his wife hospitalized. The children were removed from the couple following an incident at a hotel in Slidell, La., where police found Joshua Hakken passed out in a room with marijuana and weapons. His wife had bruises on her body and was ranting about being a ninja in the witness-protection program, authorities said.
The children were placed with first-time foster parents, Elizabeth and Tom Monk.
They had finished the training classes in 2011, and on June 11, 2012, “We finally got a call stating they had the two boys,” Elizabeth Monk told The Tampa Tribune. “This wasn’t a permanent situation. … It would not be an option to adopt.”
The boys would stay with the Monks for about a month, leaving after Elizabeth Monk says their father threatened her with a gun. A judge in Louisiana terminated the Hakkens’ parental rights, and the children went to live with their grandmother in North Tampa.
Nine months later, authorities say, Joshua Hakken tied his mother-in-law up and took the boys, sailing with them and their mother to Cuba. Joshua and Sharyn Hakken are in jail awaiting trial on kidnapping charges.
Elizabeth Monk says she saw signs of neglect from the beginning. When the boys arrived in her home, they had a suitcase and a bag of clothes. The bag reeked so badly of marijuana that she threw it out, thinking the stench couldn’t be washed away, she said.
The boys’ behavior also could be strange, she said, though Monk didn’t want to discuss specifics. They were doing things in front of her and her husband, she said, that were “not normal.”
She said the children adored their mother and asked about her all the time. They also were close to their grandmother. They didn’t want to be near their father unless he was wearing a red shirt, and then he would refer to himself as “Elmo,” the Sesame Street character.
She said Joshua Hakken got out of jail within days of the hotel incident, and after nursing the boys through an illness, she brought them to a social services building for a visit. The visitation was supposed to be arranged so she would have no interaction with their parents. She said she was supposed to call the social worker and wait outside to be let in through a side door. But when no one answered, she took the children in through the front door.
“Right when I walked through the door, Cole saw his dad and he immediately let go of my hand and went,” Monk said. “Chase stayed with me. I was so shocked.”
Hakken, who was bearded and wearing a red shirt, hugged Cole and apologized to her, Monk said.
“Chase didn’t want to leave me. I had to let go of Chase’s hand and say, ‘OK.’”
She said she asked the woman at the window if it was all right to leave the children and was told it would be fine. In classes, she said, “I was told never to leave them out of my sight unless it’s with the social worker, and here I am doing it.”
But she left when she was told. A week later, they had their second visit, and this one went better. Monk said she saw Hakken, though, and he was clean-shaven. Sharyn Hakken came for the third visit.
On the fourth visit, Monk said, she saw Joshua Hakken pacing back and forth outside. She called the social worker and said she wouldn’t come inside until Hakken was in the building. She watched as the social worker came outside and guided Hakken into the building. The visit, she said, went fine.
She picked the boys up.
“Cole was acting out,” she said. He took his seat belt off in his car seat, and she had to pull over and buckle him in again. That night, he continued acting out, being defiant, throwing tantrums. It was not like him.
She tried to redirect him, suggested they draw pictures for his mother and grandmother.
The next morning, the boys were up by 8 a.m. When someone knocked on the front door, Monk said she told the boys to stay in her bedroom while she went to see what was going on.
She looked through the window and saw a truck parked at her neighbor’s house. She walked downstairs and cracked the front door open. She saw Sharyn Hakken getting into the truck and Joshua Hakken getting out.
“He said, ‘Is this the Monks? Is this Tom and Liz’s house?’ I said yes.
“He stepped out of the truck and I slammed the door,” she said. “He ran immediately to the door. … I was able to shut the door and lock it.
“He said, ‘I want to see my kids.’ I said, ‘You need to leave, you don’t belong here.’ He said, ‘I’m not leaving until I see my kids.’ I said, ‘You saw your kids yesterday.’ I said, ‘You need to call social services.’’’
He wasn’t wearing a red shirt. One of his hands “was kind of hidden.” She was looking at him through the window pane. That’s when she saw the gun in his hand.
“He pointed the gun at me,” she said. “He could have shot me. He said, ‘I’m not leaving until I see my kids.’”
She said she was going to call 911 and ran upstairs. She herded the boys into the master bathroom and told them to get into the tub as Joshua Hakken tried to kick in her front door. While she was on the phone with the 911 operator, she remembered she had a gun and went to get it from her safe. After struggling with the safe, she got it out, loaded it and brought it into the bathroom.
“Cole saw the gun,” she said. “He said, ‘Miss Liz, you have a shiny silver gun. My daddy has a black one.’’’
She told him the gun wasn’t real, that it was for paintball.
When the police arrived, the Hakkens were gone. There were footprints on her front door.
When she told the children to come down to talk to the police, Cole said, “No, Miss Liz. Cops are bad.”
“Baby, who told you that?” she responded. “He’s a friend, he helps people.”
She introduced Cole to the officer, who went out of his way to ease the boy’s fears.
The boys went back to social services after that, she said. She said she lived in terror, afraid Joshua Hakken would return.
For a while, she wouldn’t stay home alone during the day. She had to start taking medication. She had nightmares.
Monk said she and her husband miss the children and would like to see them if their grandmother approves.
“We love children, me and my husband,” she said. “Those two children were sick. I took care of them. When you do things like that, they become a part of you. I care very much for them.”
She also wants to testify at their parents’ trial.
“Ultimately,” she said, “my goal is they stay in jail” until the boys are old enough to decide for themselves whether they want to see their parents.