A man behind an abduction authorities initially classified as a hoax pleaded guilty to the kidnapping, admitting he took a 29-year-old woman from her California home and held her for ransom, authorities said.
Appearing in federal court in Sacramento Thursday, a shackled Matthew Muller told U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley that he was taking antidepressant, mood-stabilizing and anti-psychotic drugs when he broke into Denise Huskins and Aaron Quinn’s Vallejo home in March.
Using a stun gun and simulated firearm, Muller, 39, ordered the couple to lie still while he bound them, blindfolded them and had them drink a sleep-inducing liquid before he abducted Huskins.
He then shoved Huskins into an allegedly stolen car’s trunk and took her to his South Lake Tahoe home, prosecutors said.
Huskins was kept at Muller’s home for two days, at times bound and blindfolded, while Muller sent her boyfriend emails demanding ransom amounts totaling $17,000, officials said.
Muller also sent emails to a reporter that claimed that the kidnapping had been carried out by a group of “elite criminals who were perfecting their kidnapping-for-ransom tactics,” acting United States Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said.
“Muller committed a serious and violent crime that terrorized the victims in this case," Talbert said in a statement. "He violated the sanctity of their home and caused fear and panic for all those affected by the kidnapping."
Muller ultimately let Huskins go, releasing her after two days and without receiving any sort of ransom.
Vallejo police called the kidnapping a hoax, as they doubted Quinn’s account of the abduction and questioned Huskins’ actions after she reappeared.
Huskins is suing the City of Vallejo and two police officers, saying her case was wrongly likened to the movie “Gone Girl” and damaged her and her boyfriend’s reputations.
The city apologized to Huskins and Quinn.
Muller, a disbarred Harvard University-educated attorney, was arrested and charged after investigators probing a separate home-invasion burglary uncovered evidence linked to Huskins’ abduction at Muller’s home, authorities said.
Though Muller’s attorney, Thomas Johnson, said his client has been diagnosed as manic and depressive, he was found competent to enter the guilty plea.
He could face life in prison when he is sentenced, but prosecutors have agreed as part of his guilty plea to recommend a maximum term of 40 years.
"There's a tremendous amount of remorse," Johnson said in an interview outside the courtroom, the Associated Press reported.
Marianne Quinn, mother of Aaron Quinn, told reporters after the hearing that she was pleased with the sentence recommendation and that Muller’s mental illness is no excuse for his actions.
"He also is a psychopath," she said. "His mental illness did not cause what happened to Aaron and Denise."