All this week, people throughout the U.S. and around the world have been closely following an intriguing news story concerning the international abduction of two children by their birth parents to the nation of Cuba.
According to reports, Joshua H., 35, and Sharyn H., 34, lost custody of their two young boys last year after law enforcement officials discovered them in a Louisiana hotel room "acting in a bizarre manner," and in possession of both drugs and weapons.
The boys, ages two and four, were initially placed in protective custody for a short time before going to live with their maternal grandparents who reside in Tampa, Florida.
According to police reports, Joshua H. allegedly came to the home of the maternal grandparents last Wednesday, barged in uninvited and proceeded to tie up his mother-in-law. He then loaded his two sons into her car and fled the scene.
Authorities allege that the family eventually boarded a sailboat and set a course for Cuba, which they reached on April 7 after docking at a Havana marina in less than ideal sailing conditions.
Officials with the Cuban Foreign Ministry were informed that the parents of the two boys were wanted in connection with an international abduction case the next day and proceeded to establish a direct line of communication with the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.
While Cuba has no extradition treaty with the U.S., sources indicate that officials viewed the actions of Joshua H. and Sharyn H. as atypical and tantamount to a hostage situation.
Cuban officials ultimately took the family into custody, and handed both Joshua H. and Sharyn H. over to FBI agents who had flown in from Florida.
Thankfully, the two boys were unharmed by the entire affair and reunited with their grandparents upon landing back in the U.S. yesterday.
"Right now we're just looking forward to sitting and getting them in our arms and hugging them and being with them getting them home where they will be safe again," said the grandfather.
Both Joshua H. and Sharyn H. were taken into custody by local authorities and have since been charged with a litany of criminal offenses, including kidnapping, interference with child custody and child neglect. Joshua H. is also facing charges for false imprisonment, battery, burglary and grand theft auto.
It's important to remember that whether you find yourself facing a challenging child custody issue or a terrifying child abduction case that you do have rights and you do have options. Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.
Source: ABC News, "Parents in Cuba kidnap case isolated from jail population," Alyssa Newcomb and Anthony Castellano, April 10, 2013