With the revelation this week that a couple in Vallejo may not have staged a kidnapping-for-ransom plot, a victim's parent is saying police created a public backlash that is only now subsiding.
“They caused us a lot of pain, and they didn’t care,” Marianne Quinn, mother of Aaron Quinn, told ABC News.
Authorities now say Aaron Quinn and his girlfriend, Denise Huskins, were the apparent victims of an elaborate kidnapping scheme that has drawn comparisons to the plot of the movie “Gone Girl.”
Quinn called Vallejo police on March 23 at 1:53 p.m. to report that thieves had entered his and Huskins’ Mare Island home in the early morning hours and drugged them, according to the FBI.
He told investigators that the thieves then kidnapped Huskins and stole his car. He said he was threatened and a ransom was demanded.
Two days later, Huskins was dropped off at her family's home in Huntington Beach.
Quinn provided blood samples to prove he was drugged and gave authorities the passwords to his email accounts, his attorneys said.
But in statements to the media after Huskins reappeared, Vallejo police officials said the pair weren’t being forthcoming and suggested the entire incident was a hoax.
On Monday, Huskins and her boyfriend’s attorneys called on Vallejo police to apologize because they endured “public humiliation" and mockery, despite being "nothing but cooperative, conscientious human beings."
Vallejo police Capt. John Whitney told KOVR-TV Channel 13 that the department will not issue an apology because it is waiting for the FBI investigation into the kidnapping to be completed.
Whitney told the Vallejo Times-Herald that police had called the kidnapping a hoax because Huskins and her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, were not talking to them. At the time, he said police had no evidence to support the abduction claim.
Whitney’s statement comes days after the FBI announced a break in the case, resulting in the arrest of Harvard-educated ex-attorney Matthew Muller, 38, of Orangevale, Calif.
Muller’s attorney told NBC News that they are considering an insanity defense and his client will plead not guilty.
According to a sworn affidavit unsealed Monday, when authorities went to Quinn and Huskins' home in March, they found red strips of tape on the floor and a surveillance camera with motion sensors attached to the ceiling.
Investigators found Quinn’s car in the parking lot of the Department of Veterans Affairs building in the Mare Island neighborhood. The car keys were on the left rear tire and another strip of red tape was found on the roof of the car.
Similar evidence was found at a home and a Ford Mustang linked to Muller, according to the affidavit. A cellphone left at the scene of a home-invasion robbery and kidnapping attempt in Dublin, Calif., led investigators to Muller in June.
Eventually, investigators were able to connect Muller to Huskins’ kidnapping, and he was named in a June 29 criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
The crimes, according to the FBI, were similar. Separate couples awoke to find a man standing at the foot of their beds with a flashlight shining in their faces. Both times, the victims were ordered to lie on their stomachs, and zip ties were used to restrain them.
But that wasn’t the only piece of evidence tying Muller to Huskins’ kidnapping, the FBI said.
Muller had sent the San Francisco Chronicle anonymous emails describing the kidnapping, as well as a series of crimes committed throughout the Bay Area, according to the affidavit.
In an attempt to clear Huskins’ name after she was criticized by Vallejo police, the FBI said Muller sent the emails detailing clues about the abduction and provided photographic evidence of the weapons he used.
The emails describe crimes, including vehicle thefts, committed by a group primarily focused on Mare Island.
In the emails, Muller said he and a group of “young adults, fairly recent college graduates” mostly stuck to property crimes but switched to kidnapping because they wanted “something with a high payout.”
“We fancied ourselves a sort of Ocean’s Eleven, gentlemen criminals who only took stuff that was insured from people who could afford it,” the group wrote.
So they went after Huskins and Quinn, but the “operation went terribly wrong.”
“The bottom line, inconceivable as it sounds given what we have done,” the kidnappers wrote, “is that we didn’t really want to hurt anyone.”
Several laptops, including Quinn’s computer, a digital key maker, numerous blank car keys and a pair of two-way radios were allegedly seized.
Water goggles covered with tape and a super-soaker water pistol that had been spray-painted black, with a flashlight and laser pointer attached to it, also were allegedly recovered. The tape still had a long blonde strand of hair attached to it.
The Huntington Beach address where Huskins was dropped off was found on the log of a navigation system inside the Ford.
Muller, who is believed to be the mastermind behind Huskins’ abduction, was an immigration attorney at a San Francisco law firm. He landed there fresh out of Harvard Law School, managing its Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, among other responsibilities.
As a U.S. Marine from October 1995 to August 1999, Muller held the rank of sergeant, with the occupational specialty of trumpeter, according to Yvonne Carlock, deputy public affairs officer with the Marine Corps’ Manpower and Reserve Affairs. During his service, he earned several honors, including the Good Conduct Medal.
But then in 2013, Muller, a summa cum laude graduate of Pomona College, stopped paying his State Bar fees. He filed for bankruptcy the following year, and he was accused of failing to refund a client $1,250 after a court decided he failed to competently represent him.
Muller was disbarred earlier this year.
He told investigators he suffered from psychosis and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008, according to the affidavit.
Huskins' attorney, Douglas Rappaport, called Muller a "psychopath, a sociopath bent on destroying people's lives."
Quinn’s attorney, Daniel Russo, slammed the department for declaring the kidnapping a hoax "in such a short time."
He called on officers to step up and thoroughly investigate the matter.
Los Angeles Times staff writer Lee Romney contributed to this report.