VALLEJO, Calif. (KRON) — In an unusual development, a Harvard-educated lawyer has been arrested in connection to the kidnapping of a Vallejo woman whose case was believed to be a hoax.
Mattew Muller, 38, of Orangevale, Calif., who has been in custody for a home invasion robbery in Dublin is now being accused of snatching 29-year-old Denise Huskins from her Kirkland Avenue residence on Mare Island on March 23.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations announced his arrest on Monday afternoon. The Mare Island case remains an active, ongoing investigation by the FBI, the Vallejo Police Department, and Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI said.
At the time of his arrest, Muller told Alameda County sheriff detectives that he is a former Marine, who also attended Harvard from 2003-2006 before teaching at Harvard.
At about 2 p.m. on March 23, 30-year-old physical therapist Aaron Quinn called police to report that his girlfriend was violently abducted from their home in the middle of the night and that the kidnappers demanded an $8,500 ransom.
In a statement from the FBI, the victim was ordered to bind Quinn with zip ties and then told to go into the bedroom closet.
“The subject covered the male victim’s eyes with swim goggles with tape-covered lenses to restrict vision and, once the victim was in the closet, placed a pair of headphones over the male victim’s ears. The headphones were used to play a prerecorded message that provided instructions, indicated that the break in was being performed by a professional group on site to collect financial debts, and threatened that both victims would be hurt by electric shock or by cutting their faces if either of the two victims did not comply,” the FBI said in the statement.
Quinn was prepared to pay the ransom but an intense search followed and the victim turned up unharmed two days later in Southern California.
The victim called her father and said she was dropped off at her mother’s home in Huntington Beach, found no one there, and walked 12 blocks to her dad’s apartment.
Initially, police called the whole thing a hoax, but a sworn affidavit released today by the FBI now links Muller to the crime.
Vallejo police said that they found no proof of a kidnapping and believed it was a hoax, but the victim and Quinn have maintained through their attorneys she was abducted.
“It was such an incredible story, we initially had a hard time believing it, and upon further investigation, we couldn’t substantiate any of the things he was saying,” Vallejo police spokesman Kenny Park said at a March 25 news conference.
The Los Angeles Times reported that they received an anonymous email saying that the kidnapping was real. The sender wrote: “The Mare Island kidnapping was a training mission to test means and methods that would be used on higher net worth targets.”
Jeff Kane, the victim’s uncle, told The Associated Press he was angry about the police department’s assertion that his niece’s kidnapping was a hoax. Kane, of Huntington Beach, said police interviewed the victim and her family for hours.
“They said, ‘If you don’t start telling the truth, we’re going to offer you or your boyfriend the chance to tell the truth, and whoever goes first will get leniency,’” Kane said.
“I believe when the truth comes out, people are going to look at each other and say, ‘That is the most horrific story I’ve ever heard. I can’t imagine what she’s gone through.’”
MORE DETAILS FROM FBI STATEMENT ON KIDNAP CASE:
FBI SEEKING INFORMATION
Man Charged With Kidnapping May Have Committed Other Similar Offenses
Sacramento, Calif. – On June 29, 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation obtained a warrant for the arrest of Matthew Muller, 38, of Orangevale, Calif. for the alleged kidnapping of an adult female victim from a residence in Vallejo, Calif. The case remains an active, ongoing investigation by the FBI, the Vallejo Police Department, and Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. A sworn affidavit containing allegations against Muller was unsealed earlier today.
Information obtained during the course of the ongoing investigation indicates Muller may have committed similar crimes elsewhere. The FBI is issuing this release containing information from the affidavit concerning acts allegedly committed by Muller so that members of the public aware of similar crimes may bring such information to attention of law enforcement.
According to the affidavit, on March 23, 2015, at approximately 1:53 p.m., a male victim called the local Vallejo Calif. Police Department to report that his residence in Vallejo, Calif. had been broken into during the early morning hours and an unknown subject or subjects forcibly drugged both him and the female victim and then used the male victim’s car to take the female victim to an unknown location.
According to victim statements to Vallejo Police Department officers and FBI agents, the male and female victims fell asleep in the master bedroom during the early morning hours of March 23, 2015. The male victim was awakened by a bright light shining in his eyes, a noise that was similar to a “stun gun,” and the voice of man who demanded that both victims lie face down on the bed.
The subject ordered the female victim to bind the male victim with zip ties and told both to enter the bedroom closet. The subject covered the male victim’s eyes with swim goggles with tape-covered lenses to restrict vision and, once the victim was in the closet, placed a pair of headphones over the male victim’s ears. The headphones were used to play a prerecorded message that provided instructions, indicated that the break in was being performed by a professional group on site to collect financial debts, and threatened that both victims would be hurt by electric shock or by cutting their faces if either of the two victims did not comply.
The subject then obtained financial account numbers and passwords from the male victim. He also obtained information for the residence’s Wi-Fi router, the male victim’s laptop, and certain Internet accounts.
The male victim was placed on the couch, was told he was being watched on camera and to not try to free himself. He requested a blanket because he was cold and the subject replied that he was unaware of the temperature because he was wearing a “wet suit.” The male victim fell asleep on the couch for a period of time and, upon awakening later the same day, he freed himself. The male victim then noticed that the female victim, his laptop, and his car were missing. He was able to locate cell phones belonging to both he and the female victim. His phone contained a voicemail message with a financial demand and instructions to tell those who inquired about his transactions to say the funds were for purchase of a ski boat.
On the morning of March 25, 2015, the female victim was released in Huntington Beach, Calif.
During the early morning hours of June 5, 2015, deputies from the Dublin Police Services, of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, responded to a report of a home invasion robbery. During the course of their investigation, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office detectives were able to identify Matthew Muller as the subject of the investigation.
On June 8, 2015, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office detectives conducted a search of a South Lake Tahoe, Calif. residence associated with Muller. Upon entry, they located Muller and placed him under arrest.
On June 25, 2015, the FBI met with investigators of the Dublin Police Services, of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, where it was determined that there were similarities with the June 5, 2015 case, and elements of the March 23, 2015, kidnapping.
Individuals who believe they are a victim of a similar crime and law enforcement agencies aware of similar crimes are urged to contact agents with the Sacramento Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).