TAMPA — Even before they were accused of kidnapping their own children and fleeing to Cuba in April, Joshua and Sharyn Hakken were viewed as paranoid and mentally unstable by many of the people who encountered them.
More than 1,000 pages of evidence released by prosecutors Monday paint a picture of a disturbed couple who had latched onto grandiose antigovernment, apocalyptic ideas with conflicting political beliefs.
Among the revelations in the documents:
* Joshua Hakken believed the red light cameras in Tampa were watching him and had plotted out where all the cameras were, according to Joshua Hakken’s best friend, Stephen Joseph Morris, who described Hakken as “delusional.”
* Joshua Hakken believed the Air Force was using “chem trails of aircraft” to lace the sky to control people, according Jameson B. Rabbitt, who knew Joshua Hakken from when they both attended the University of South Florida. A mechanical engineer with a specialty in heating, ventilation and air conditioning, Hakken built an elaborate filtration system in his house to filter out the chemicals the Air Force was putting in the air, Rabbitt said.
* Dorothea Moores, the mother of one of Joshua Hakken’s former Air Force Academy classmates, said she saw the Hakkens when they showed up at her home in Colorado a few months before the alleged abduction. She told investigators Joshua Hakken, who washed out at the academy, seemed paranoid and spoke at length about how people were chasing him and his wife. * Another witness whose name is blacked out in the documents, told investigators the Hakkens had been living at the Land of Pines Campground in Louisiana and spoke about heading to Arizona for Armageddon. They were followers of the fantasy author Terry Goodkind and spoke of “Temple of Winds” on the west coast and going to the “Valley of Rahaan.”
The Hakkens made national headlines in April when they were accused of snatching their two young sons from their maternal grandmother and boarding a sailboat bound for Cuba.
Law enforcement officials began looking for the family on April 3 when Joshua Hakken was accused of walking into his in-law’s home in the Lake Magdalene area and grabbing his two sons, Cole, 4, and Chase, 2, after tying up his wife’s mother, Patricia Hauser.
During the abduction, Hakken told Hauser that he and his wife were considering suicide but then mentioned that “they have a way out and needed to get the kids,” Hauser told detectives.
The Hakkens had been married for about nine years, Hauser told deputies, and that: “They believe the government is trying to control everyone and don’t believe in things like vaccinating their children.” She said her son-in-law received a medical discharge from the Air Force and that the Air Force Academy “had tried to brainwash him while he was there.”
She said her daughter had been prescribed medication for anxiety but stopped taking the pills when she got pregnant and hasn’t taken it since.
“I know that one time Joshua beat Sharyn up,” Hauser told deputies, “because she said she was a ninja.”
The alleged kidnapping happened a day after a Louisiana court terminated the parental rights of Hakkens and granted legal custody to Hauser. The ruling said Joshua Hakkens had made an armed assault on a foster home where the children were placed, and came almost a year after a drug- and alcohol-fueled encounter between the Hakkens and law enforcement in St. Tammany Parrish, La., which resulted in the children being placed in state custody.
The documents released Monday detailed the items the Hakkens had with them on their voyage, including firearms, books about survival, improvised munitions and booby traps, as well as children’s books like “Bugs Bunny Marooned!” and stuffed Sesame Street characters, including Elmo.
The Hakkens also brought to communist Cuba a set of compact discs containing an audio recording of “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand, an anticommunist, conservative hero.
A bail bondsman who posted bail for Joshua Hakken in Louisiana told the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that Hakken was a “nut,” according to a report contained in the evidence materials released on Monday. Hakken spoke about the apocalypse and said he and his family were going to drop off the grid and be self sufficient, according to the bondsman, Jim Johnson. The family was going to the woods of Mississippi to wait for the apocalypse, Johnson said.
Before fleeing, Hakken wrote letters to 11 Latin American countries, including Cuba, seeking asylum.
The letters were dated March 22, 13 days before the abduction.
“We are requesting your assistance in applying for political asylum,” each letter began. The pair included resumes and mentioned the contrails of jets passing over the United States and the effect they have on the population.
“We began doing our own investigation into the subject and subsequently found sufficient evidence to support that it is indeed harmful and illegal,” the Hakkens wrote.
The couple also wrote that the U.S. government has experimented with mind control and that the government was hacking into their personal computers.
The letters said that last year, “we were drugged in our home in Tampa, Florida. Both of us started to experience feelings of sluggishness, hallucinations, dizziness, memory loss and confusion.
“We cannot safely return to the United States and are seeking political asylum in your country because we have been attacked by the U.S. government and fear further retribution against ourselves … ”
Hakken’s instability came through on the airplane ride from Havana to Tampa after the couple were taken into custody. Hillsborough County sheriff’s Cpl. Harrison Bashner said he chatted easily with Hakken, though they did not talk about the abduction.
“He advised he was the victim of a secret government test started in the 1950s,” wrote Bashner in an affidavit. “He then went into multiple government conspiracies to include the vapor trails of airplanes and radiation of the population. He advised the wood in his attic has sap coming out of it and 60-year-old wood should not do this. He equated it to a microwave … when you radiate wood.”
Hakken told the detective he feared for his life upon his return to the United States.
“He also requested if something were to happen to him, a full investigation be conducted.”
Though Joshua Hakken sought refuge in Cuba, the communist island nation returned the family to the United States.
Joshua and Sharyn Hakken are awaiting trial in state court on charges that include kidnapping, child neglect, interference with custody, burglary and theft. The couple remain jailed and the children were returned to their grandmother’s custody.