Matthew Muller had previously entered a not guilty plea to a kidnapping charge stemming from the March 23, 2015, "Gone Girl" abduction of 30-year-old Denise Huskins

By Christine Pelisek
September 28, 2016 06:45 PM
Dublin PD/AP

“Gone Girl” kidnapping suspect Matthew Muller – a former Marine and a Harvard-educated lawyer who was later disbarred – is set to plead guilty in the case on Thursday, PEOPLE confirms.

Muller, 39, plans to change his plea at a court hearing in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, California, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Lauren Horwood.

He had previously entered a not guilty plea to a kidnapping charge stemming from the March 23, 2015, abduction of 30-year-old Denise Huskins from her home in Vallejo, California.

Huskins’ case became erroneously known as the “Gone Girl” kidnapping, referencing the popular book and movie about a phony kidnapping, after police publicly cast doubt on her story before apologizing.

Muller is expected to plead guilty to the kidnapping charge, according to the Sacramento Bee. A sentencing date will be set for him at the hearing, Horwood says.

Muller’s attorney, Thomas Johnson, did not return a call for comment. Huskins’ attorney, Kevin B. Clune, declined to comment on the planned change of plea.

Johnson told the Bee that Muller agreed to the plea in exchange for federal prosecutors not seeking a life sentence or bringing further charges in the case.

Johnson said prosecutors agreed to ask for no more than 40 years in prison and that he will argue for less, citing his client’s lack of a criminal record.

“The fact that he is admitting this is a major factor that judges consider,” Johnson told the Bee. “We hope it’s important to the court and the complaining witnesses that he’s admitting this.”

On Tuesday, federal prosecutors filed a memorandum asking the court to “make detailed inquiry into the nature and current effects of the defendant’s mental condition and medications,” according to records obtained by PEOPLE.

Prosecutors said that Muller has had “mental problems in the past and is currently medicated.”

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The kidnapping case began in March 2015 when Huskins’ boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, reported to the Vallejo Police Department that kidnappers had broken into his home, kidnapped Huskins and demanded $8,500 in ransom.

But after Huskins reappeared two days later — seemingly unharmed and an hour before the ransom was due — police called a news conference and, citing a lack of evidence, declared the case a hoax perpetrated by Huskins and Quinn.

Before Muller was arrested, the San Francisco Chronicle received a string of emails from the alleged abductor claiming they were the leader of an Ocean’s Eleven-like group of gentlemen criminals who had started out by stealing cars and graduated to a kidnapping “training mission.”

In the emails, the alleged abductor, who the FBI believe was Muller, came to Huskin’s defense and chastised the police for not believing her story.

“Ms. Victim F was absolutely kidnapped,” the alleged abductor wrote, according to a federal arrest warrant citing the emails. “We did it. … We would rather take the chance of revealing the truth than live in a world where someone like Victim F is victimized again.”

Muller was charged in June 2015 after authorities say they noticed similarities to Huskins’ case in a separate home invasion robbery in Dublin, California.

After a search, agents say they discovered blacked-out swimming goggles and a spray-painted water pistol in a Mustang parked at Muller’s home in South Lake Tahoe, California.

In a later jailhouse interview with a reporter, Muller allegedly said he’d acted alone in the abduction and said his actions were the result of mental illness.

In March, Huskins and Quinn filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Vallejo and its police department, accusing the department of defamation, false arrest and false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Quinn has claimed he was initially held for an 18-hour interrogation after reporting Huskins’ missing, where police accused him of killing her.)

“For the rest of their lives these two individuals have essentially a tattoo on their forehead, which labels them as hoaxers,” their attorney, Clune, previously told PEOPLE.

Vallejo police said they were initially skeptical of Huskins’ abduction because they didn’t believe Quinn’s version of events, including that he had been drugged by intruders, according to a July court filing.

Police also based their skepticism in the case on the fact that Huskins allegedly did not meet with her parents in the days after her reappearance, according to the filing.

The city has argued its officers’ public statements after the abduction, dismissing it as a hoax, were constitutionally protected speech and that the officers are protected under the state’s “absolute immunity.”

Clune has called the city’s defenses more victim-blaming. The city has declined to comment to PEOPLE, citing the pending litigation.

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