TAMPA, Fla. - Joshua and Sharyn Hakken seemed to have a charmed life, doting on their two young boys, buying a comfortable home and building successful careers as engineers. It all derailed last year when police in Louisiana found the family inside a hotel room with drugs, weapons and promises from the parents to take "a journey to the Armageddon."
The couple are now jailed on charges they kidnapped the boys from their grandparents in Florida and sailed to Cuba to elude U.S. authorities.
The family arrived in Florida early Wednesday morning, accompanied by federal, state and local authorities after being handed over by Cuban officials.
Four-year-old Cole and 2-year-old Chase are now with their grandparents, and their parents are in jail, closing a bizarre ordeal that began with an Amber Alert and ended with diplomatic intervention.
Friends of the couple said the family seemed happy and had no marital problems.
"This is a train that went completely off the tracks, and I don't have any explanation for how it can go off the track that badly basically in a year and a half. It's very bizarre," said Darrell Hanecki, who employed Sharyn Hakken for nearly a decade at Hanecki Consulting Engineers.
Hanecki said Hakken was an easygoing and relaxed employee who worked from home in Tampa so she could spend more time with the kids. She brought the boys into the office a few times to show them off.
"The kids were really well-behaved. From everything I could tell, she was a great mom. Her kids were definitely her priority," Hanecki said.
He said Sharyn Hakken was pragmatic and responsible, graduating from the University of South Florida in 2008. She occasionally gave advice to Hanecki's daughter, an aspiring engineer, and encouraged her to stay in school and finish her degree.
She resigned in 2011, saying it was too difficult to juggle work with caring for an infant and a toddler.
Sharyn Hakken's husband, Joshua, also seemed to show few signs of trouble. He attended the U.S. Air Force Academy from 1996 to 1998 but did not graduate, according to academy spokesman Sgt. Vann Miller, who declined to provide further details.
Joshua Hakken also worked as an engineer, employed at one point by Hahn Engineering Inc. A woman who answered the company's phone Wednesday declined comment. Last year the couple started their own company, listing Sharyn as president and Joshua as vice president, but it's unclear what type of business it was.
Then, last year, police in Louisiana came upon a disturbing scene in a hotel room: The Hakkens were inside with drugs and weapons, talking about "completing their ultimate journey" and saying they were traveling across the country to "take a journey to the Armageddon," Daniel Seuzeneau, a spokesman for the Slidell police, said in a news release. Their children were with them.
After that arrest, the Hakkens lost custody of the boys. Last week, the boys' maternal grandparents were granted custody. That's when police say Joshua Hakken broke into the home, tied up his mother-in-law, took the children and later set sail for Cuba.