Amber Alert: Joshua Hakken, father who kidnapped sons Cole and Chase, may now be on sailboat in the Gulf of Mexico

6:17 PM, Apr 5, 2013   |    comments
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Amber Alert UPDATE: Hillsborough deputies say Joshua Hakken -- who abducted his two non-custodial children in Tampa -- was last seen taking his family into the Gulf of Mexico aboard this sailboat.

Tampa, FL -- There was still no sign of the two parents who kidnapped their children in Tampa earlier this week, after a court in Louisiana took away their parental rights.

There were, however, two major developments in the case in the past 24 hours. The black GMC pickup truck belong to Joshua and Sharyn Hakken was found Thursday night in Madeira Beach.

That tip set off a chain of events.

Detectives, who now had an area to ask people questions, found a witnesses who had spotted the couple on a boat heading out of John's Pass on Wednesday morning.

Joshua Hakken's truck was located in the John's Pass parking garage, where it had been backed-in to the parking space, to conceal the license plate.

"This lead that we got last night is of course the most pressing lead that we've gotten so far," said Det. Larry McKinnon with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

While detectives were still scouring the vehicle, a witness near the marina provided information that just two hours after the kidnapping, the Hakkens were seen in a sailboat under the John's Pass bridge.

Surveillance photos show the couple preparing the 1972 25' Morgan named "Salty." Another image shows them heading out toward the Gulf of Mexico.

The boat, they say, was not stolen. It had been sold to them a few weeks ago.

The purchase of the vessel, again, appears to be part of a seemingly elaborate plan broken down into what Joshua Hakken himself referred to as "phases."

"We do know he has some sailing training and some sailing experience, so he is capable of operating that boat," said McKinnon.

Investigators now have the U.S. Coast Guard, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Sheriff's Marine units up and down Florida's west coast searching inlets, marinas and the wide open water. 

They've also not ruled out the possibility that the Hakkens could have used the boat just long enough to get back to another place on land where they could then grab yet another vehicle.

"We're not eliminating any land searches at this point. We're looking for them both on land," said McKinnon, "But right now we're going to focus more of that search on the waterways on the west coast of Florida."

At this point, the Hakkens would appear to have a 48-hour lead on investigators, but detectives have not lost their trail yet.

They repeated several time on Friday, that they hope this can be resolved peacefully.

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