SACRAMENTO (CN) – A Marine turned Harvard-educated attorney was sentenced Thursday to 40 years in prison for the 2015 kidnapping of a Bay Area woman that stirred national attention after police called the “Gone Girl” abduction a hoax.
U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley sentenced kidnapper Matthew Muller, 39, to a 40-year sentence. After more than 30 minutes of testimony from Muller’s two victims, Nunley called the kidnapping a “heinous, atrocious, horrible crime.”
Denise Huskins’ abduction gained nationwide attention after the Vallejo Police Department questioned whether Huskins had actually disappeared and if her boyfriend was involved. After being missing for three days, Huskins was found more than 400 miles away from her home.
Prosecutors said Muller spied on Huskins with a drone before breaking into her Vallejo home at 3 a.m. on March 25, 2015. He drugged her and her boyfriend and then took to his family’s South Lake Tahoe home.
Huskins, 31, said in court that Muller raped and terrorized her.
During the abduction, Muller sent her boyfriend ransom emails, and sent a San Francisco reporter false tips, claiming that the kidnapping was carried out by a “group of elite criminals,” prosecutors said.
“It is difficult to imagine the level of suffering that Muller inflicted on his victims,” U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert said in a statement.
Muller, a former Marine and Harvard Law School graduate, pleaded guilty to the federal kidnapping count in September 2016. His attorneys asked for a lighter sentence, saying Muller has been diagnosed as manic-depressive.
The case went unsolved for more than two months until Muller was arrested for a separate home invasion burglary. Investigators recovered evidence of the Vallejo kidnapping, including video recordings of Muller sexually assaulting a blindfolded Huskins.
A year after her abduction, Huskins sued the City of Vallejo and its police department for calling the kidnapping a “wild goose chase.”
Huskins and her boyfriend, co-plaintiff Aaron Quinn, were forced to move out of town because of the media attention and false accusations, according to their federal lawsuit.
“Vallejo Police Department’s conduct was so outrageous that it inspired even the person responsible for kidnapping and raping Huskins to come to her defense,” the complaint states. “Huskins’ kidnapper provided a full account of what happened in order to alleviate the public perception that [plaintiffs] were somehow criminals.”
The civil lawsuit is pending, with a hearing set for April 5 in Sacramento Federal Court.
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