AMBER Alert family reported to be in Cuba

7:43 PM, Apr 8, 2013   |    comments
  • Chase and Cole Hakken
  • Joshua Hakken, Sharyn Hakken
    
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(St. Petersburg, FL / WTSP) Late Monday afternoon, the Hillsborough County, FL Sheriff's Office received information that the Hakken family arrived in Cuba. 

According to WTSP-TV, a release sent just before 7:00 p.m. said they are currently working with the FBI, who is in contact with the U.S. State Department, to verify the information.

The TBI issued an AMBER alert for the boys in Tennessee last week after getting a report that the family's vehicle had been spotted in McMinn County.

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There's still no sign of the couple accused of kidnapping their non-custodial sons last week in Tampa.

But tips are still pouring in from people who think they've spotted the small sailboat that Joshua and Sharyn Hakken, along with their young sons Chase and Cole, were last seen aboard Wednesday. There's been some question about just how far the family could have gotten.

A look inside the type of watercraft Joshua Hakkken purchased shows why choosing that boat may have been no accident.

Jim DeSanto gave us a tour of his Morgan 25. He says it has surprisingly ample room to accommodate four people.

Squeezed into the small hull, there's bed-space, eating areas, a galley with a stove, sitting areas and storage for food and water.

DeSanto says among people -- even with limited sailing experience -- the Morgan 25 has a solid reputation as an almost-perfect combination of livability and durability.

"This boat sails so well that one man can single-hand it in almost any conditions," said DeSanto.

Space and speed also make the Morgan more than capable of traveling long distances. And for that reason DeSanto believes Hakken chose this particular kind of boat.

"I don't think it's an accident. If he had this planned out, it wasn't an accident," he said.

The thing about the Morgan 25 is that it can operate almost anywhere. With its centerboard down, it draws only about three feet, enabling it to reach into back canals and possibly hide. With the centerboard down, it can handle seas of 10 to 12 feet.

"He can go wherever he wants to go, and hide out wherever he wants to hide out," said DeSanto.

"I don't know of a boat I'd rather be on to do a journey like that than a Morgan," said St. Pete Yacht broker Page Obenshain.

Obenshain should know. He actually helped design the Morgan 25 with its creator Charlie Morgan half a century ago, and sailed on the very first one ever produced.

The boat may be small, but with enough provisions it can travel the world, he says.

"They're overbuilt. Their built well. So the choice was excellent," said Obenshain.

On Monday investigators, still searching for the Hakkens and their two young sons, released another, clearer picture of the Morgan 25 they were last seen on. It's blue with the name "Salty" and a paw print painted on the sides.

Detectives say Hakken bought the vessel a few weeks ago, as part of what appears to be an elaborate getaway plan. They've gotten lots of calls from people who think they've spotted the boat.

The bad news? So far none of the tips has panned out.

"The good news on that is that we now know people are out looking. We know that this is a priority, not only for us, but for the public," said Hillsborough County Sheriff's Det. Larry McKinnon.

Even at a slow pace, it's clear the Hakkens could have traveled hundreds of miles by now, but that doesn't necessarily mean they have, said investigators.

Jim DeSanto, who is also a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, says he was out on the water Sunday with many others looking for the Hakken's boat.

Again, if you come across them, you're asked not to approach the family. Call 911.

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