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Woman, boyfriend file claim against Vallejo for calling abduction a hoax

Los Angeles Times logo Los Angeles Times 9/18/2015 Veronica Rocha

Soon after Denise Huskins' boyfriend told the Vallejo Police Department that she had been abducted in late March, police officials called her disappearance part of a hoax.

More than two months later, in early June, the FBI arrested a Harvard-educated former attorney, Matthew Muller, 38, of Orangevale, Calif., in connection with Huskins' kidnapping.

Huskins and her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, filed a legal claim Thursday against the city of Vallejo over what they call "false and unfair accusations" made by police that the couple faked the woman's kidnapping.

This undated photo released by the Vallejo Police Department shows Denise Huskins. Police say Huskins, who was reported kidnapped from her boyfriend's San Francisco Bay area home and held for ransom, has contacted her father to say she's in the Southern California city of Huntington Beach. © Vallejo Police Department/AP Photo This undated photo released by the Vallejo Police Department shows Denise Huskins. Police say Huskins, who was reported kidnapped from her boyfriend's San Francisco Bay area home and held for ransom, has contacted her father to say she's in the Southern California city of Huntington Beach.

"Instead of focusing on finding the true perpetrator... and protecting the community from a violent predator, [police] instead intentionally destroyed the lives and reputations of these two innocent victims," the claim said.

Huskins and her boyfriend's attorneys have called on Vallejo police to apologize because they endured "public humiliation" and mockery, despite being "nothing but cooperative, conscientious human beings."

After Muller was arrested, Vallejo police told the Vallejo Times-Herald that police had called the kidnapping a hoax because Huskins and Quinn were not talking to them. At the time, police said they had no evidence to support the abduction claim.

Police officials said the department would evaluate whether it will issue an apology once the FBI investigation is concluded.

After Huskins went missing, Vallejo police called the case a "wild goose chase" and a waste of police resources. Police warned that the couple could face criminal charges for making a false report.

But according to the FBI, Muller is believed to be the mastermind behind Huskins' abduction.

When authorities identified him as a suspect in a home-invasion robbery in Dublin, Calif., the FBI said they discovered evidence to suggest similarities to Huskins' abduction.

Quinn called Vallejo police on March 23 about 1:53 p.m. to report that thieves had entered their Mare Island home in the early morning hours and drugged them, according to the FBI. He told investigators that the thieves then kidnapped Huskins and stole his car.

The couple's attorneys said the kidnapper demanded two payments of $8,500 as ransom and threatened to hurt Huskins and Quinn's family if he went to the police.

The attorneys said the kidnapper tried to reach Quinn on his cellphone; police missed an opportunity to trace the calls, they said.

Police interrogated Quinn for 18 hours and took his clothing and a blood sample, the couple's attorney said.

The kidnapper had forced Huskins, a licensed therapist, into the trunk of Quinn's stolen car and later moved to a second car. After she was transported across the state, she was dragged into the bedroom of a home, tied to a bed with zip locks and a bike lock.

She was held hostage in a small room and forced to wear blacked-out swim goggles, the couple's attorneys said.

During the ordeal, she was drugged and raped twice, according to the claim.

Two days after Huskins was kidnapped, she was dropped off at her family's home in Huntington Beach. The kidnapper gave her a water bottle and pair of shoes that were too large for her feet.

Muller later sent the San Francisco Chronicle anonymous emails describing the kidnapping, as well as a series of crimes committed throughout the Bay Area, according to a sworn unsealed federal affidavit.

In an attempt to clear Huskins' name after she was criticized by Vallejo police, the FBI said Muller sent the emails detailing clues about the abduction and provided photographic evidence of the weapons he used.

Her attorneys said the police department's investigation was "unprofessional, outrageous, disgusting and dangerous."

"Before ever seeing or speaking with Denise, and without a shred of evidence in support of their preconceived conclusion, [the police department] treated the victim of a kidnapping and sexual assault like the criminal they refused to pursue," the claim said.

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