Tuesday 22 August 2017

Kidnap victim tells of her 'hell' as abductor jailed for 40 years

Marianne Quinn the mother of Aaron Quinn, one of Matthew Muller's victims, hugs one of her son's friends (Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee via AP)
Marianne Quinn the mother of Aaron Quinn, one of Matthew Muller's victims, hugs one of her son's friends (Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee via AP)

A woman who was drugged along with her boyfriend and then dragged from their California home has described the "hell that we have survived" in emotional testimony.

She spoke out before her abductor was sentenced to 40 years in prison for a crime so elaborate and bizarre that police initially dismissed it as a hoax.

"You treated me like an object, a toy, an animal," Denise Huskins told her kidnapper, Matthew Muller, a disbarred Harvard University-trained lawyer who pleaded guilty in September.

She described the two days of physical and psychological torture she endured after Muller snatched her from her and her boyfriend's San Francisco Bay Area home two years ago.

"I still have nightmares every night," she said, fighting back tears. "Sleep is not rest for me. It is a trigger."

Her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, who was bound and drugged during the kidnapping, said he "cannot and will not ever be the same".

US District Judge Troy Nunley called the abduction a "heinous, atrocious, horrible crime" as he sentenced Muller, 39.

He had faced up to life in prison, but prosecutors agreed to recommend 40 years in exchange for his guilty plea.

In court, Muller said he was "sick with shame" for the "pain and horror" he caused.

Shackled and wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, he looked straight ahead and showed no emotion as he was sentenced.

Mr Quinn's mother Marianne said a life sentence would have been better "because they never would have to worry about him ever again, but again, he's going to be in jail for a long, long, long time".

Defence lawyer Thomas Johnson argued for a 30-year sentence, saying his client has been diagnosed as manic and depressive and can be rehabilitated with proper treatment.

"They want him to be a monster to get to 40 years. Fine. Marginalise mental illness," he told the judge.

Muller used a remote-controlled drone to spy on Ms Huskins and Mr Quinn before he broke into their Vallejo home, tied up the couple and made them drink a sleep-inducing liquid, prosecutors said.

They were blindfolded while Muller played a pre-recorded message that made it seem as if there was more than one kidnapper.

He put Ms Huskins in the boot of his car, drove her to his home in South Lake Tahoe and held her there for two days before eventually releasing her in her home town of Huntington Beach.

He claimed in emails to a San Francisco reporter that Ms Huskins was abducted by a team of elite criminals who were practising their kidnapping tactics.

After her release, Vallejo police called the kidnapping a hoax and erroneously likened it to the book and film Gone Girl, in which a woman goes missing and then lies about being kidnapped when she reappears.

Investigators dropped that theory after Muller was arrested in an attempted robbery at another Bay Area home.

They found a mobile phone that they traced to Muller and a subsequent search of a car and home turned up evidence, including a computer Muller stole from Mr Quinn, linking the disgraced lawyer to the abduction.

Vallejo police have since apologised. Ms Huskins is suing the city and two police officers, accusing them of defamation and inflicting emotional distress.

Muller, a former Marine, lost his law licence in 2015 in an unrelated incident.

AP

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