A disbarred Harvard-educated lawyer got 40 years in prison Thursday for kidnapping a California woman with tactics so bizarre, police originally dismissed the case as a “Gone Girl”-style hoax.
Matthew Muller, 39, faced up to life in prison but prosecutors pushed for the lower sentence in exchange for his guilty plea.
In a filing Wednesday, Muller’s lawyers said the former lawyer and U.S. Marine suffers from “paranoia, a break with reality, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, mania, and bipolar disorder.”
The abduction gained national attention as it unfolded in 2015 because police in the San Francisco suburb of Vallejo suggested kidnap victim Denise Huskins and her boyfriend Aaron Quinn personally orchestrated the elaborate scheme and sent them on a “wild goose chase.”
Cops simply didn’t believe the couple’s claims they were blindfolded and drugged by a powerful assailant who whisked Huskins away to a cabin in the mountains and then dropped her off hundreds of miles away in Huntington Beach with a pair of sunglasses.
Speaking at Muller’s sentencing, Huskins recalled the very real physical and emotional torture she endured as Muller bound her with zip ties, a bike lock and blacked-out swim goggles and sexually assaulted her at his parents’ property in South Lake Tahoe.
“You treated me like an object, a toy, an animal,” she said in an emotional statement reported by the Associated Press.
“I still have nightmares every night,” she said. “Sleep is not rest for me. It is a trigger.”
Quinn also spoke, saying he “cannot and will not ever be the same.”
U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley called the abduction a “heinous, atrocious, horrible crime” as he handed down the sentence in Sacramento.
In court, Muller said he was “sick with shame” for the “pain and horror” he caused.
Denise Huskins (l.) pictured with her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn (r.).
Muller reportedly used a remote-controlled drone to spy on Huskins and Quinn before he hatched his elaborate plan to break into their home, kidnap Huskins and demand ransom money.
The night of the abduction, he tied the couple up, forced them to drink a liquid sedative and played a pre-recorded message that suggested they would be hurt if they didn’t comply.
After Huskins mysteriously reappeared in her hometown of Huntington Beach days later, police suggested the case was a waste of their time and likened it to the thriller novel and movie “Gone Girl,” about a woman who plans her own disappearance for devious reasons then claims she was kidnapped when she reappears.
Authorities apologized after Muller was arrested for a robbery elsewhere in the Bay Area and allegedly possessed goggles with a blonde hair attached and a computer stolen from Quinn.
Huskins is now suing the city and two police officers, accusing them of defamation and emotional distress.
She was raped twice during her captivity, he lawyer has said.
Muller allegedly told her he was filming the sexual assault to use it against her if she went to police.
When he raped her the second time, he said his “boss” wanted the repeat to get better footage.
During the ordeal, Muller called Quinn’s cell phone and emails demanding thousands of dollars in ransom.
Quinn missed the critical messages because he was being interrogated by police, the couple has alleged.