SACRAMENTO (AP) — Matthew Muller was sentenced to 40 in prison Thursday for a kidnapping so elaborate and bizarre that police in California initially dismissed it as a hoax.
Muller pleaded guilty in September for kidnapping Denise Huskins from her Vallejo home in March 2015. He faced life in prison but prosecutors agreed to recommend 40 years in exchange for his guilty plea.
Federal prosecutors say Muller used a remote-controlled drone to spy on his victims before he broke into the home Huskins shared with boyfriend Aaron Quinn, tied up the couple and made them drink a sleep-inducing liquid. They were blindfolded while Muller played a pre-recorded message that made it seem as if there was more than one kidnapper.
He put Huskins in the trunk 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 hometown of Huntington Beach.
He claimed in emails to a San Francisco reporter that Huskins was abducted by a team of elite criminals who were practicing their kidnapping tactics.
After Huskins reappeared, Vallejo police called the kidnapping a hoax and erroneously likened to the movie “Gone Girl,” in which a woman goes missing and then lies about being kidnapped when she reappears.
Investigators dropped that theory after Muller was later arrested in an attempted robbery at another San Francisco Bay Area home. Authorities said they found a cellphone that they traced to Muller, and a subsequent search of a car and home turned up evidence, including a computer Muller stole from Quinn, which linked him to the abduction.
Vallejo police have since apologized. Huskins is suing the city and two police officers, accusing them of defamation and inflicting emotional distress.
Muller, a former Marine, was admitted to practice law in California in 2011, and his state bar profile says he attended Harvard Law School. He lost his law license in 2015 in an unrelated incident.
“He will be dangerous for the rest of his life,” Quinn wrote in advance of Muller’s sentencing.