A suspect has been named in a California kidnapping that was previously deemed a hoax, officials said.
Federal prosecutors announced they had charged Matthew Muller of Orangevale, Calif., with the kidnapping of Denise Huskins, whose boyfriend Aaron Quinn said she had been taken from their Vallejo home on March 23. Ms. Huskins reappeared two days later, hours before the reported $8,500 ransom was due.
Mr. Muller was arrested and charged in a San Francisco Bay Area home-invasion robbery last month that shared similarities with Huskins’ reported kidnapping, the FBI said in an affidavit that was released Monday.
FBI Special Agent Jason Walter said in the affidavit that recently discovered evidence gave him probable cause to believe Muller had kidnapped Huskins.
Authorities arrested Muller in South Lake Tahoe, where they found a laptop resembling one belonging to Mr. Quinn.
Detectives also found a pair of goggles with a hair the color of Huskins’. The goggles were similar to the ones Huskins and the woman involved in the robbery last month both had reported being forced to wear during their respective incidents.
In their search of a stolen car connected to Muller, authorities found items that resembled those that appeared in photos the kidnappers had sent to a newspaper, including a water pistol with a flashlight and laser pointer attached. They also found a cell phone that contained one of the photos which had been sent to the newspaper. The car’s navigation system had logged an address in Huntington Beach – Huskins’ hometown, where she reappeared.
Vallejo police said at the time of Huskins’ reappearance that the kidnapping had been a hoax concocted by Huskins and Quinn.
Spokesman Kenny Parks said at a news conference then that the police had doubted the story’s veracity from the start.
"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 [Quinn] was saying," Park said.
Quinn’s lawyer, Daniel Russo, criticized authorities for mishandling the investigation.
"What I want is for the Vallejo PD to do their job," Russo said. "Go out, find out if there are other guys out there and make sure that next time this happens they think before they talk."
Muller, the suspect, used to practice law, but his license was revoked in 2013 for failure to pay dues. He was also brought up on disciplinary charges for failing to file a green card application for a client’s son despite taking advance payment from the client.
The FBI affidavit says Muller also has a history of mental illness – psychosis and bipolar disorder, specifically.
As of Monday, Muller was in custody on charges of first-degree residential robbery and assault. His attorney, Thomas Johnson, said in a statement he will plead not guilty to the kidnapping charges.