TAMPA — Attorneys representing Joshua and Sharyn Hakken, the Tampa couple accused of snatching their two children from a legal guardian and sailing to Cuba earlier this year, will continue to defend their clients in a single case, even though evidence has surfaced suggesting the husband beat his wife. That revelation opens a possible defense that she may have been coerced into going along with the scheme.
Arrest reports from the Slidell Police Department in Louisiana detail the incident that resulted in the children being taken away last summer. In those reports, said Bryant Camareno, Sharyn Hakken's attorney, police detailed what they found when they responded to a call of a disturbance at a hotel in town.
Camareno said officers spotted Sharyn Hakken wandering the hallway, incoherent. They weren't able to talk to her but made note of bruises around her face and two black eyes, Camareno said.
The room the couple had rented reaked of marijuana, he said, and police found Joshua Hakken passed out on the bed. The couple's two children, Cole and Chase, then 4 and 2, were wandering about the room.
Joshua Hakken, 35, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession and other charges. Sharyn Hakken, 34, was held for psychiatric evaluation. She was not charged.
Camareno said Joshua Hokken told police he beat his wife, causing those bruises.
Still, both attorneys on Monday said they planned to work together in presenting their defense. Camareno said if the time comes to have two separate cases instead of one combined case, he would consider using the “battered spouse” defense and try to show that Sharyn Hakken “may have acted under coersion.”
For now, the attorneys plan to mount a unified defense.
The Louisiana hotel incident put the children in the Louisiana foster care system. A state court there eventually terminated the Hakkens' parental rights and granted legal custody to Sharyn's parents, Bob and Patricia Hauser, who live in North Tampa.
On April 3, a day after the court granted the Hausers custody, Joshua Hakken showed up at his in-laws' home, tied up Patricia Hauser and snatched the children, authorities said, before stealing Hauser's Toyota Camry and driving to meet his wife in Madeira Beach.
The family boarded a 25-foot, 1972 Morgan sailboat named Salty, which Hakken had purchased in January.
As law enforcement officials searched for the children across Florida, the Hakkens sailed 330 miles to Cuba, apparently banking on the communist island nation granting them asylum. Instead, Cuban officials detained them in Havana until American authorities arrived to bring them back to Tampa.
The couple appeared in court Monday. Their attorneys asked the judge to order the state to turn over documents pertaining to the dependency case in Louisiana. Prosecutors did not object.
A status conference before Hillsborough Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe is scheduled for Sept. 9.