Terror & Betrayal: They Were Attacked, She Was Abducted - and Police Said It Was All Lies
Police publicly questioned the accounts of Denise Huskins and Aaron Quinn until evidence proved the couple was telling the truth
In March of 2015, Denise Huskins and her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, were bound with zip ties and forced into a closet in Aaron's Vallejo, Calif. home.
In the closet, they were drugged and blindfolded with blacked out goggles. Their attackers, they were told, were from a well-organized, highly-trained group that collected financial debt. Denise would be kidnapped, they said - and then returned in 48 hours if Aaron paid a ransom.
Denise was taken from the home and held captive at a remote location, where she was drugged and raped twice by her abductor. She was released two days later on March 25 near her mother's home in Huntington Beach, Calif.
When Denise was released, the couple's trauma wasn't over. Vallejo police, to whom Aaron had reported the kidnapping, didn't believe the couple - and publicly cast doubt on their account. The case became known - erroneously - as the "Gone Girl" kidnapping, referencing the popular book and movie about a woman who faked her own kidnapping.
Now, Denise, 35, and Aaron, 36, both physical therapists, are sharing their story in the new book Victim F: From Crime Victims to Suspects to Survivors, which they wrote with former PEOPLE senior writer Nicole Weisensee Egan, due out today.
"There are extraordinary facts within our story, what happened to us," Aaron, who was interrogated for 18 hours, tells PEOPLE. "But dealing with trauma isn't unique. We want to share our story and help other people to let them know that they aren't alone. We've always helped people at an individual level. This is an opportunity to help people on a larger scale."
(The couple's story was also featured on Monday's episode of PEOPLE (the TV Show). An exclusive clip is shown below.)
After their ordeal, it would take three months and a chance discovery before the couple received a modicum of justice. In June 2015, police investigating a case involving a masked intruder some 40 miles away in Alameda County, Calif., found evidence connected to Denise and Aaron's case in the possession of a former Marine and disbarred Harvard-educated immigration attorney named Matthew Muller.
Muller, 44, would plead guilty in 2016 to one count of federal kidnapping. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison. He faces additional state charges including kidnapping, two counts of rape by force, robbery and burglary but in November 2020, he was found mentally incompetent to stand trial. He is currently at a Solano County Jail competency-treatment program.
Despite Muller's guilty plea, Denise said she continued to be harassed online by strangers convinced she faked her high-profile abduction.
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Denise and Aaron sued the City of Vallejo for defamation and in 2018 won a $2.5 million settlement.
"The Huskins Quinn case was not publicly handled with the type of sensitivity a case of this nature should have been handled with, and for that, the City extends an apology to Ms. Huskins and Mr. Quinn," representatives for the City of Vallejo wrote in a statement to PEOPLE.
Shawny Williams, the city's police chief, wrote in a statement to PEOPLE, "What happened to Ms. Huskins and Mr. Quinn is horrific and evil. As the new Chief of Police, I am committed to making sure survivors are given compassionate service with dignity and respect. Although I was not chief in 2015 when this incident occurred, I would like to extend my deepest apology to Ms. Huskins and Mr. Quinn for how they were treated during this ordeal."
"When I was kidnapped, I didn't know if I was going to live to see another day," Denise tells PEOPLE. "I just wanted to go back to my life. And then to have people attacking you on social media, the whole 'Gone Girl' label - a whole persona was placed on me that had nothing to do with who I am."
Adds Aaron, "With PTSD and therapy, it gets easier. But it doesn't ever really get easy."
ABC's 20/20 aired an interview with Denise Huskins and Aaron Quinn last Friday.