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California Woman, Once Called The Real Life 'Gone Girl,' Receives Apology From Police

Denise Huskins was kidnapped and raped but when she reported the crime investigators questioned her story, even hinting publicly that it was nothing more than a hoax. Now, a suspect is in custody and police are apologizing for their comments. 

By Jill Sederstrom
Denise Huskins And Aaron Quinn

It’s been more than six years since an armed man, wearing a scuba suit, burst into the bedroom of Aaron Quinn and his girlfriend Denise Huskins and abducted her in a crime so bizarre it had many wondering if Huskins was a real life “Gone Girl,” who had faked her own disappearance.

When Huskins resurfaced two days later in her mother’s Huntington Beach neighborhood more than 400 miles south of the crime scene, investigators questioned the couple’s story, even hinting publicly that it had been nothing more than a hoax.

Mr. Quinn and Ms. Huskins have plundered valuable resources away from our community and taken the focus away from the true victims of our community while instilling fear among our community members. So, if anything, it is Mr. Quinn and Ms. Huskins that owe this community an apology,” Vallejo police spokesperson Lt. Kenny Park said at the time, according to SF Gate.

But the truth would turn out to be stranger than fiction, after Huskins’ abductor was arrested in connection with another crime and investigators found evidence supporting her story.

The couple, who are now married and parents to a one-year-old daughter, are sharing their harrowing account of the crime—and the suspicion and speculation that followed—in a new book “Victim F: From Crime Victims to Suspects to Survivors.”

“You can go through any kind of trauma to where it leaves you devastated and in a place where you just think, ‘This is impossible to move forward from. What do I do next?,” Huskins said in Friday’s episode of “20/20” according to ABC News. “I think ours is an example of that. There is hope. It might take time and it might be a lot of work, but there is hope.”

The Vallejo Police Department has also apologized to the couple, admitting the case had not been handled appropriately.  

“The Huskins Quinn case was not publicly handled with the type of sensitivity a case of this nature should have been handled with, and for that, the City extends an apology to Ms. Huskins and Mr. Quinn,” a statement from the Vallejo Police Department said, according to the news outlet.

A Harrowing Abduction

The couple had been asleep in Quinn’s Vallejo home on the morning of March 23, 2015 when someone burst into the bedroom around 3 a.m.

“I remember being asleep and hearing a voice and thinking it was a dream. … But the voice kept talking and I just remember my eyes shot open and I could see the walls illuminated with a white light that was flashing and I could see a couple of red laser dots crossing the wall, and I could hear, ‘Wake up, this is a robbery. We’re not here to hurt you,’” Huskins told the news outlet.

The armed intruder forced the couple into a closet, zip tied their hands and feet, and placed goggles covered in black duct tape over their eyes. The intruder—or intruders as Huskins believes—then placed headphones on then placed headphones on Huskins' and Quinn's heads that carried a disturbing pre-recorded message, instructing them that they would be given a sedative and needed to cooperate.

Before abducting Huskins, the ringleader—who Huskins referred to as “The Voice” to The New York Post—played a series of recorded messages saying she’d be returned in 48 hours and instructing Quinn not to call police. The kidnapper warned Quinn he was being watched through surveillance cameras and instructed him not to go outside of a taped perimeter that had been created.

Huskins was put into the trunk of a car and driven to a second location, where she said she was repeatedly raped.

“I was convinced I would be killed,” she told The New York Post. “But I felt like I had to do what I could to remain as calm as possible. It felt like I was always on the edge of hysteria and, if I got there, I would never return.”

Couple Faces Suspicions

Quinn passed out from the sedatives he was given and when he woke up he called his brother, who was an FBI agent. His brother instructed him to call police, but rather than finding a receptive audience, Quinn said authorities quickly began to suspect that he had done something sinister to his missing girlfriend.

“I always thought police officers were there to protect the general public, but I found out how quickly the justice system can turn on you,” Quinn told the news outlet. “The amount of pressure these professionals are trained to put on you is terrifying. They have sheer tunnel vision and absolute certainty that you’re lying.”

When Huskins was released near her mother’s house 48 hours later, investigators also questioned her account, even offering her immunity if she admitted the kidnapping had been a hoax.

“I thought I’d just come out of captivity only [to face the possibility of being] put in a jail cell,” she said, of fearing possible criminal charges against her.

As the months went on, Huskins became a target of cyber bullying and drew comparisons to “Gone Girl,” a book turned movie starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, depicting a woman who stages her own kidnapping to pin suspicion on her cheating husband.

“Damn hoe, we were hoping you were dead,” one social media message read.

“All this hate was directed at me for reasons that had nothing to do with me,” she told The Post. “We were objects to throw stones at with those verbal beatings and threats.”

A Break In The Case

But the case would take an unexpected turn on June 5, 2015 when another similar attempted break-in occurred in Dublin, California. In that case, however, the husband was able to tackle the suspect before he fled the home, leaving behind an important clue, according to ABC News.

Investigators recovered a cell phone that was later traced to Matthew Muller, a U.S. Marine and former Harvard Law School student.

When investigators searched his South Lake Tahoe cabin, they were surprised to find evidence—including a pair of goggles with the eyes taped over and a long blonde hair stuck to it, zip ties and Quinn’s laptop—that linked him to the earlier abduction and rape.

Muller ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of federal kidnapping and received a 40-year sentence.

He is still facing state-level charges as well including kidnapping, two counts of rape by force, robbery and burglary, but is currently being housed in a mental health facility after being declared mentally unfit to stand trial.

Huskins and Quinn have tried to put the ordeal behind them and have started their own family. Their daughter, Olivia, was born in March of 2020.

“Our daughter keeps us in the moment and reminds us of the little joys in life,” Quinn said. “She is our happy ending.”

Issuing An Apology

The couple also received a $2.5 million out-of-court settlement from the Vallejo Police Department for the way authorities publicly handled the case.

“What happened to us should not happen to anyone,” the couple said after the settlement according to SF Gate. “Victims should be protected in their time of need, not humiliated on a public stage. We hope that this settlement brings inspiration to others like us to speak up and keep fighting.”

This month, police also issued that public apology.

“What happened to Ms. Huskins and Mr. Quinn is horrific and evil,” Chief Shawny Williams said in the statement to ABC News. “As the new Chief of Police, I am committed to making sure survivors are given compassionate service with dignity and respect. Although I was not chief in 2015 when this incident occurred, I would like to extend my deepest apology to Ms. Huskins and Mr. Quinn for how they were treated during this ordeal.”

But Quinn doubted the sincerity of the apology, telling The New York Post that it was done through the media rather to the couple in person.

“Honestly, we’d rather see them make cultural shifts and policy changes than anything else,” he said.

Oxygen.com reached out to the Vallejo Police for additional comment, but did not receive an immediate response.

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