The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

April 17, 2013

Records: Mom chatted online during kidnapping

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Authorities are scrutinizing the social media and email accounts of a Florida couple accused of kidnapping their children and sailing with them to Cuba.

Court records show that Sharyn Hakken chatted with a Facebook friend during the time authorities says she and her husband were fleeing to Cuba with their kidnapped sons.

The children, ages 2 and 4, were taken from their grandparents' Tampa home April 3, a day after their parental rights had been severed. They sailed to Cuba and were returned to the U.S. last week.

Joshua and Sharyn Hakken (HAY'-ken) are being held in the Hillsborough County Jail on multiple felony counts.

The Tampa Bay Times (http://bit.ly/YuxjbB ) reported that investigators learned about the Facebook chat during the search for the family. Records show Sharyn Hakken chatted on Facebook with a woman identified as Britteny Littlefield of Cottonwood, Ala.

The affidavit does not provide details, but says Alabama authorities have talked with Littlefield and found that Mrs. Hakken, 34, asserted during the chat that she was in Tampa on April 5, two days after the kidnapping.

Mrs. Hakken's Facebook page is almost entirely private, so investigators were seeking permission to obtain its photos and messages from the social network company.

An investigator wrote that "it is known that social networks and the communication through them can be used to facilitate escape, concealment of significant others, parental abductions and evasion of law enforcement."

Another affidavit sought permission to search a laptop found with Mr. Hakken after the family came ashore in a Cuban marina.

"During a further search of the materials that were in the suspect's possession, it was discovered that there were numerous electronically created documents that detailed (Mr. Hakken's) plans to defect from the United States of America with the victims of the kidnapping," the affidavit states.

A third search warrant affidavit also filed Tuesday seeks permission to search Mr. Hakken's Google email account. Another court record also filed Tuesday reveals that when the Hakkens were taken into custody in Cuba, Joshua Hakken carried a Toshiba Satellite laptop computer in his backpack.

Authorities have said they reviewed surveillance video showing the couple preparing to set sail from Madeira Beach a few hours after the April 3 kidnapping.

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