Oops: Turns Out California Hoax Kidnapping Wasn’t a Hoax
Police called Denise Huskins’s two-day March kidnapping a ‘wild goose chase’ and considered pressing charges against her. Now a man has been arrested in connection with the crime.
A kidnapping tale so strange that police dubbed it a hoax and claimed they “had a hard time believing it” from the beginning may actually be true.
On March 24, a California man named Aaron Quinn called authorities and told a wild story: On the night of March 23, he and his 29-year-old girlfriend, Denise Huskins, were awoken by an unfamiliar man shining bright lights into their eyes in the master bedroom of their Vallejo home.
The man told Huskins to bind her boyfriend and then Quinn, 30, was told, via a message played through headphones, that they were being held by a group collecting financial debts. The next day, Quinn found himself missing a girlfriend, car, and other belongings. A message was left demanding a $10,000 ransom for Huskins.
A massive manhunt ensued, involving some 140 police and FBI agents, and a diving team. Two days later, Hutchins turned up around Huntington Beach, where she grew up.
When she didn’t show up for an interview with the FBI a few hours later in Northern California, authorities began to get suspicious. That night, the pair were blamed for what police called “an orchestrated event” and “not a kidnapping.”
“If you can imagine devoting all of our resources, 24 hours a day, on what I would classify as a wild goose chase, it is a tremendous loss,” a police lieutenant said at a press conference. He added that the district attorney would decide whether to press charges against the pair.
Soon after, the purported kidnappers sent rambling emails to the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times detailing the alleged crime. They had apparently driven for 400 miles with Huskins in the trunk of their car. Now they warned the local police to apologize for calling the kidnapping a hoax or face retribution. The group also described other crimes in the area it had pulled off and described itself as an Ocean’s Eleven-style crew of “college-educated,” well-dressed criminals.
“[We] did not want to stay thieves or criminals forever. What we really wanted was to complete one or two big jobs and then to do whatever we felt like for the rest of our lives,” the alleged kidnappers wrote.
In letters to Huskins’s attorney, the group claimed her kidnapping was a practice run for those grander schemes.
Now Hutchins and her boyfriend may have a taste of redemption. On Monday, the Los Angeles Times, citing a recently unsealed affidavit, reported that a man was arrested in June in connection with the kidnapping. Matthew Muller, a 38-year-old resident of South Tahoe, was taken into custody as a suspect in a different home invasion in June. At his home, police found items that were also seen in a photograph sent by Huskins’s kidnapper, including what may be a laptop stolen from her home.
Muller is a Harvard-educated attorney, according to local police. He was fired from his law firm in 2012, apparently for non-criminal reasons.