Harvard-educated attorney set to be sentenced in bizarre Vallejo kidnapping


Kidnapping suspect Matthew Muller served as a U.S. Marine from October 1995 to August 1999. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School. (Thomas A. Johnson Law Office)

A Harvard-educated attorney is due in court Thursday afternoon for sentencing in the bizarre kidnapping of a woman that police in Vallejo initially portrayed as a hoax.

The case cast a harsh light not only on the suspect, Matthew Muller, but on the Vallejo Police Department.

Muller, 39, pleaded guilty last year to abducting Denise Huskins and holding her in his family’s South Lake Tahoe home for two days. He faces up to life in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to acting U.S. Atty. Phillip A. Talbert.

Huskins and her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, are expected to speak at the sentencing.

The couple had been together less than a year when the kidnapping happened.

It took place in the predawn hours of March 23, 2015, as the couple slept in the master bedroom of Quinn’s home on Mare Island. The couple awoke to find a stranger standing in the room.

Using a stun gun and a water pistol made to look like a gun, Muller ordered the couple to lie still while he bound and blindfolded them and gave them a sleep-inducing liquid, prosecutors said. A recorded message played over headsets, threatening electric shock if the couple did not comply with his orders.

Muller placed Huskins in the trunk of Quinn’s 2000 Toyota Camry and then moved her to the trunk of another car before driving her to his family’s South Lake Tahoe home.

Huskins would later tell authorities she had been secured on a bed with a zip tie and a bike lock and blindfolded with a pair of blacked-out swim goggles. She was drugged repeatedly and sexually assaulted twice, she said.

While she was held, Muller called Quinn’s phone and sent emails demanding a ransom amount totaling $17,000.

During that time, authorities interrogated Quinn for hours, theorizing that he might have had something to do with his girlfriend’s disappearance.

Quinn objected and provided blood samples to prove he was drugged, and gave the FBI and police the passwords to his email accounts and his cellphone.

His father, Joseph Quinn, could not imagine his son was involved. His son, he told police, had never been in a fight in his life. But worry set in when he and his wife heard police read their son his Miranda rights.

“I started having chest pain,” Joseph Quinn said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “We expected them to parade him out being arrested.”

Quinn was never arrested — and two days after her kidnapping, on March 25, Muller dropped Huskins off more than 400 miles away from Vallejo in Huntington Beach.

As her family felt relief, Vallejo police grew suspicious, questioning Huskin’s return and the fact that she reappeared carrying an overnight bag and wearing sunglasses.

Huskins “did not act like a kidnapping victim,” retired Vallejo police Capt. James O’Connell later said in a sworn statement.

Police offered the couple immunity for whichever would give up the other one first, their families said.

At about 9:30 that night, less than 24 hours after Huskins had reappeared, Vallejo police held a news conference, calling the case a “wild goose chase” and a waste of police resources.

"Today, there is no evidence to support the claims that this was a stranger abduction or an abduction at all," Vallejo Police Lt. Kenny Park said in a statement at the time. "Given the facts that have been presented thus far, this event appears to be an orchestrated event and not a crime."

Vallejo police posted the statement to its Facebook page, where it remains today, with dozens of commenters criticizing Quinn and Huskins. News outlets likened Huskins to the lead character in the novel “Gone Girl.”

“I knew what happened was real. What would be her motive to fake something like that? That’s not her,” her father, Mike Huskins, said in an interview from his Huntington Beach home. “I never doubted her story, never. But Vallejo did, they doubted it.”

In a bizarre twist, a day after police had accused the couple of orchestrating the abduction, a person claiming to be the kidnapper sent an email to a local newspaper.

But the real confirmation came when the FBI announced that Muller was Huskins’ kidnapper. Evidence gathered from a June 5, 2015, home-invasion robbery helped authorities link Muller to the kidnapping.

The next month, Quinn and Huskins each received identical letters of apology from the Vallejo police chief — stating that the department’s comments had “proved to be unnecessarily harsh and offensive.”

“It is now clear that there was a kidnapping on March 23, 2015, that it was not a hoax or orchestrated event and that VPD conclusions were incorrect,” Police Chief Andrew Bidou said in the letters.

Huskins and Quinn have filed a federal lawsuit, saying because of the police department’s allegations that her kidnapping was untrue, they were forced to move out of the town, where they had worked as physical therapists. Their reputations were tarnished, they said.

“In retrospect, it almost makes sense that he should have stayed home, paid the kidnappers and then reported it,” Joseph Quinn said. “You go to the police for help and this is what you get? You get treated like this? They got victimized twice.”

In Penryn, where Quinn had grown up, the couple turned down his parents’ requests to leave the bedroom where they had holed up, his mother Marianne, recalled in an interview from her home last year.

“They were so depressed they could hardly function,” Marianne Quinn said. “They could only sleep for a little bit at a time. It was terrible.”

As the couple’s families tried to come to terms with the kidnapping and its aftermath, so too has Muller’s family.

In a lengthy interview last year from her Orangevale home, Joyce Zarback and her ex-husband said their son seemed on track in life — a decorated U.S. Marine who graduated summa cum laude from Pomona College and later went on to Harvard Law School.

In 2009, Muller confided in his parents that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder the year before, they said. That year, he had a psychotic break.

After that, he cycled in and out of jobs.

He was eventually disbarred in January 2015 after he was found to have failed to perform competent legal services for a client in an immigration case, according to records.

His parents never learned the full extent of his struggles until he was put in jail and wrote them letters explaining it all, they said.

“He was able to maintain when he wanted to such sanity or facade of sanity,” his mother said, “so that it was really hard to see that he was going through all of this.”

“The what ifs are just endless,” Zarback added. “I keep thinking, what could we have done, what should we have done, how could we have done this differently? Matt was not receptive to anything so it was pretty difficult. He’s an adult.”

This article was sourced from http://shamel-news.com