Real Story

Denise Huskins – The Bizarre Game She Faced, Nobody Believed Her

Vallejo 'Gone Girl' case: Denise Huskins, Aaron Quinn, Matthew Muller

Denise Huskins, a name that echoes a haunting tale of disappearance and an astonishing journey to justice, captivated the nation’s attention with the chilling account of her abduction and the perplexing events that ensued.

At around 2:00 p.m. on March 23rd, 2015, a 911 call came in to the Vallejo California Police Department from this man who sounded totally drunk or high on a drug or something claiming that his girlfriend was missing and she had been kidnapped. But his story just didn’t make any sense. When the officers got to this man’s house immediately, they see this guy when he opens the door and he looks deranged. His house looks totally off and has this weird smell that’s almost like a chemical smell.

When asked him to give them some information about what’s going on and where’s your girlfriend, he would launch into this bizarre story about men wearing wet suits with lasers on their hands. So, police are like, what is this? But the police would follow up and actually launch an investigation because this guy’s girlfriend really was missing. They would uncover a story that was even more bizarre and more weird than the 911 caller story had been.

Late on the afternoon of March 22nd, 2015, 29-year-old Denise Huskins reached for her buzzing cell phone and when she saw who was texting her she immediately felt this knot of anxiety in her stomach. It was her on-again, off-again boyfriend Aaron Quinn and right now, at least according to Denise, they were off and likely it was going to stay that way.

Denise Huskins
Denise Huskins

But now Aaron was texting Denise Huskins saying he really wanted to talk to her and would she please come over. It was a Sunday and Denise was home alone in her little apartment in Vallejo, California which is inside the San Francisco Bay area. Denise really just did not have it in her to go talk to her ex-boyfriend. She didn’t have plans to go out anywhere; she just wanted to stay in.

Vallejo, California
Vallejo, California

So, she typed back that she was in for the night and this would have to wait. But as soon as she sent that text, immediately she got another text from Aaron. For a long minute, Denise just sat there on the couch looking at her phone, wondering what she was going to do.

Denise Huskins and Aaron had met the previous summer after Denise had moved to Vallejo from Boston Massachusetts to work at a hospital in Vallejo called Kaiser Hospital. Denise had her PHD in physical therapy and Kaiser hospital had a great Physical Therapy Program especially for people with brain and spinal cord injuries.

Denise Huskins & Aaron Quinn
Denise Huskins & Aaron Quinn

Kaiser Hospital was also where Aaron worked. She and Aaron had been immediately attracted to each other. Aaron was tall and fit with dark hair and piercing eyes and he loved to cook. Denise Huskins , on the other hand, was blonde and blue-eyed and very outdoorsy and driven.

Kaiser Hospital
Kaiser Hospital

So, pretty much right away, Aaron and Denise would get into these intense conversations where they each would kind of dive into to the other person’s life. I mean, they were really connecting on a deep level.

Aaron Quinn
Aaron Quinn

But even though they both clearly got along great and they were really connecting, their relationship got off to kind of a rocky start. Aaron had actually been engaged to be married before he met Denise Huskins. But Aaron’s fiance had cheated on him, so he had ended the relationship. And it was during that time right after this relationship had ended that he met Denise.

Denise Huskins
Denise Huskins

So Denise Huskins was kind of like a rebound and she kind of felt like a rebound. But again, they’re getting along great and so both were optimistic that it was more than that. Aaron and Denise had officially begun dating in the fall of 2014.

But 7 months later, in March of 2015, when Denise was getting these text messages from Aaron, at least in Denise’s mind their relationship really was done because Denise had caught Aaron texting his ex-fiance basically begging her to get back together with him. And so Denise felt really hurt.

You know she understood that that was a really intense relationship and of course, Aaron would still have feelings for his ex to some degree. But she felt really betrayed. And so she told Aaron that that was it. But it was really painful for Denise because she did love Aaron even though she knew this relationship likely wasn’t going to work.

And now here Aaron was blowing up her cell phone with text messages to meet up and talk and he just wasn’t taking no for an answer. And so Denise finally typed out this long message back to Aaron basically saying, ‘Look, I don’t feel comfortable coming to your house. It’s the house that you shared with your ex. I don’t want to go there. You know we can talk another time. I think for right now what you need to focus on Aaron is kind of like recording me, take me out on dates, and show me that you really want to be with me because right now there’s no trust.’

And Aaron, to his credit, wrote back to Denise and basically said, ‘Yes, I’m definitely willing to do that. I want to put in the work to win you back. I care about you, Denise.’ But he said, ‘You know, I really have something important to tell you and I just don’t feel comfortable talking about it anywhere else besides at my house. So please, can you just come over tonight? It’s really important that I see you.’

And at first, Denise Huskins really did just kind of hold the line and she told Aaron that no, she’s not going to come to your house. But again, Aaron, he just would not let it go. And he really seemed actually very eager to see Denise and it made Denise feel special. And so eventually, she kind of gave it up and said, ‘You know what, okay, I’ll come by.’

And after that, Denise Huskins got up off the couch, she got dressed, she called their favorite pizza place and ordered some pizza that she would pick up and bring to his house for them to eat that night. And then she headed out to her car and pulled out of her driveway.

Aaron's Home
Aaron’s Home

At about 5:30 p.m. that night Denise arrived at Aaron’s two-story home on Mayor Island, which is actually just a little peninsula in Vallejo, California. Denise grabbed the pizzas off the passenger seat, she grabbed her overnight bag because she was optimistic that they’re about to have a great talk, maybe rekindle, and maybe she’ll stay the night.

So, with her things and her pizza, she walked up to the front door and knocked. The next day was a Monday, and Aaron and Denise Huskins were both scheduled to work at the hospital that day. However, at around 7:00 a.m. that morning, Aaron called into the hospital sick, stating he couldn’t come in. Denise sent a text message to her boss, mentioning that a family emergency had just come up and she would not be at work all week.

Denise’s boss immediately felt something was off. Denise never missed work, especially when she was applying for a prestigious Orthopedic Fellowship that required paperwork submission by Friday. Her absence meant she might not apply for the fellowship, which was unusual because Denise was very serious about it.

Her boss replied, offering understanding and support. Hours later, checking his phone again, he noticed no response from Denise, leading him to believe she was dealing with a significant family emergency preventing her from using her phone.

About seven hours later, around 2:00 p.m. on that Monday, Aaron and Denise Huskins had not shown up for work. A 911 call came into the Vallejo police department, and it was Aaron’s voice, totally slurred, telling a very confusing story about some sort of kidnapping. He begged the police for help.

The Vallejo Police Department
The Vallejo Police Department

Two officers, near Mayor Island where Aaron lived, arrived at his front door within two minutes of the 911 call. Upon entering, they noticed Aaron’s obvious intoxication, the dozen empty beer bottles, and the strong smell of cleaning chemicals throughout the house.

Questioning Aaron, he claimed the drugs he was on were given to him by the supposed kidnappers. The officers then went upstairs and found signs of recent cleaning in the master bedroom, with missing bedsheets except for a quarter-sized drop of blood on the fitted sheet.

Aaron Quinn
Aaron Quinn

Returning downstairs, they asked Aaron to recount the story of the kidnappers and what happened.

And Aaron would launch into a totally bizarre story through slurred speech. Aaron would say 12 hours earlier, around 3:00 in the morning that morning, so early early Monday morning, Aaron said he was in his house with his girlfriend Denise Huskins when suddenly these men wearing wet suits broke into the house. They immediately tied up Aaron and Denise and then made them wear these goggles that had been all taped up so once they were on your face, you couldn’t see anything.

Aaron told the police that the intruders, in addition to wearing wet suits, were carrying guns, tasers, laser pointers, and very high-powered flashlights. When they came in, there were all these lights and beams everywhere. It was totally chaotic. Aaron explained to the police that after he and Denise had been tied up and had these goggles on, the men in wet suits came over to them and put headphones on each of them.

The Taped-up Goggles
The Taped-up Goggles

Then, they played this recording with weird soothing music and somebody narrating, telling Aaron and Denise that they were not in any danger, that this was just a robbery, and to stay calm and nothing would happen to them.

Aaron and Denise Huskins followed orders. At some point, the headphones came off, and they were told to go to separate rooms. They gave up their banking information and passwords as demanded. Then, they were tied back up. Aaron and Denise heard the sound of someone apparently coming in, sounding like a doctor, who took their blood pressure before administering a drug that made them both very sleepy. Before passing out from this drug, Denise was taken by the intruders, who informed Aaron they had rigged a camera system to watch him.

Aaron stayed in the house until he fell asleep from the drug. When he woke up again and managed to get his restraints off, he saw that Denise was gone. When Aaron finished telling this story, sounding totally drunk, the officers were perplexed, repeatedly asking him to clarify. The officers just stared at him in silence, exchanging glances, both thinking the same thing: ‘This guy must have killed his girlfriend Denise.’

They suspected he spent time cleaning the house due to the strong cleaning chemicals’ smell and his odd behavior. They pondered that perhaps he started drinking beers to cope after killing her. The officers concluded that his 911 call and the story about kidnappers were just a ruse to cover up the fact that he killed his girlfriend. Finally, one of the officers told Aaron he needed to come to the station and explain himself

It didn’t take long for the police in Vallejo to launch this massive search all over May Island to look for Denise Huskins . At this point, they were kind of looking for a body because based on what was going on in Aaron’s house and the story he told, it did seem very likely she had been murdered and disposed of somewhere.

They had dogs out and dive teams out in the water, hundreds of volunteers looking everywhere. Simultaneously, Aaron was brought to the police station, and they began going over every single detail of his story, trying to get more information about these kidnappers.

Aaron during his police interview
Aaron during his police interview

As much as they didn’t believe him, they did need to officially rule out that there was no kidnapping. They needed all the information about these supposed kidnappers – who they were, what they looked like, what they sounded like, everything.

At the same time, police were talking to Aaron, they also brought in Denise’s roommate. They asked the roommate if they knew anything about Denise’s relationship with Aaron. The roommate revealed that the two had a very troubled relationship and, as far as they understood, Aaron and Denise were not a couple anymore.

Police confronted Aaron about this information, saying that people claimed they had broken up and weren’t dating. Aaron countered, stating Denise Huskins came over to reconcile before the supposed kidnapping happened. He claimed they had reconciled and were back together when the kidnappers came inside the house.

Aaron Quinn & Denise Huskins
Aaron Quinn & Denise Huskins

However, the more police looked into Aaron’s kidnapping story, the less sense it made, and in truth, it really didn’t make sense to begin with.

And so, it just got weirder and weirder and weirder. For one, Aaron said that he and Denise Huskins had been kind of forced to give up their banking information and passwords to the kidnappers. However, when police investigated Aaron and Denise’s banking records, no money was withdrawn. The only activity on either of those accounts was on Aaron’s account, two hours before he called 911. He called his credit card holder and attempted to get a large cash advance so he could buy a boat.

When police asked Aaron about the strong cleaning chemical smell in his house, Aaron vehemently denied doing anything to clean his house. He claimed he didn’t know how that happened. Aaron also told police that the kidnappers wanted a ransom, but it was only for $8,500. Police were baffled, questioning why kidnappers would risk serious jail time for such a low amount.

Another odd detail emerged during Aaron’s police interview. One of the officers noticed Aaron’s totally dilated eyes, his pupils were huge. Initially, police thought it might be due to drugs, causing his pupils to dilate. However, based on the bizarre nature of Aaron’s story, investigators began suspecting that Aaron might be having a schizophrenic break. Schizophrenia, a serious mental illness, often appears in young adults, and Aaron, being 30 years old, was at the right age for it.

By 9:00 p.m. on March 23rd, seven hours after Aaron’s 911 call, the Vallejo police decided to involve the FBI due to the strangeness of the case. They needed additional support to deal with the missing person situation that could involve kidnapping, injury, or worse. Despite the increased involvement, the investigators and FBI agents hadn’t made significant progress. Their suspicion centered on Aaron, convinced he was concealing something.

However, a shift occurred on the afternoon of March 24th. A reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, stationed outside Aaron’s home, received a peculiar email from the supposed kidnappers who broke into Aaron’s home and took Denise. The email mentioned that Denise was fine and included a recording of Denise’s voice reading that day’s news, sounding completely calm, unlike someone under duress.

What made it more suspicious was the email address the kidnappers used, which belonged to Aaron. When the police were informed, it only deepened the confusion.

Denise Huskins seemed alive, but now it appeared Aaron was entangled in the situation. When the police inquired about calls from the kidnappers, Aaron showed them his phone. Tracing the calls, they found a connection to a burner phone purchased from a nearby Target.

Surveillance footage showed a man resembling Aaron buying the burner phone. Two days later, on March 25th, Denise appeared at her mother’s home in Huntington Beach, 400 miles from Vallejo. She told her father a bizarre story about being held captive by four men but seemed well taken care of.

Initially cooperative, Denise shut down when the FBI requested to speak with her, just like Aaron. Investigators grew more suspicious. When Aaron and Denise were successful, came from good families, and had promising futures, why would they stage such a hoax? The police, after holding a press conference on March 25th, announced they didn’t believe the kidnapping story, stating there was no evidence. The media labeled it the ‘Gone Girl‘ case, akin to a movie about a woman faking her kidnapping.

As for Denise Huskins and Aaron, they remained silent, having lawyered up, insisting they were telling the truth amidst a stalled investigation into their strange situation. Weeks passed, but the investigation into Aaron and Denise’s actions yielded little progress. The media remained captivated by the bizarre nature of the case, naming it the ‘Gone Girl’ case. Denise and Aaron continued to stay tight-lipped, reiterating they were telling the truth.

And so, this case just didn’t make sense to anybody until about 2 and 1/2 months later, on June 5th, 2015. Early that morning, a police officer in a town called Dublin, just south of Vallejo, California, found a piece of evidence that essentially cracked the Gone Girl case wide open.

The evidence discovered was a cell phone, not a burner phone, but a genuine cell phone registered with a phone company, therefore linked to an individual person. Police traced this cell phone back to its owner, leading investigators 200 miles northeast of Vallejo to a small remote cabin in South Lake Tahoe, California.

At this cabin, police found a stolen car, a white Mustang belonging to someone from Vallejo. With guns drawn and dogs ready, law enforcement opened the door, finding a tall, fit, and slender white man with dark hair inside. The cabin was a total mess, littered with discarded food, trash, and piles of clothes. What caught the police’s attention amidst the chaos were scattered items—laser pointers, high-powered flashlights, zip ties, and swim goggles with tape obscuring the view.

The Scene
The Scene

They had finally found one of the kidnappers, resembling Aaron, but not him. This kidnapper was Matthew Muller, a 38-year-old Harvard-trained lawyer and former Marine. He had abruptly left his law practice to engage in these bizarre crimes.

Matthew Muller
Matthew Muller

Aaron and Denise’s strange stories about what had happened were all true, except there weren’t multiple people in wet suits breaking in; it was only Matthew Muller behind it all. Aaron and Denise had mistakenly believed there were multiple kidnappers due to their panic.

Moreover, Aaron and Denise weren’t Muller’s first victims. The discovery of Muller’s cell phone occurred because, on that same night, he attacked another couple in Dublin. The couple fought Muller off, and he dropped his cell phone in their home before fleeing.

Muller, highly intelligent but severely mentally ill with psychosis and bipolar disorder, fixated on Aaron and Denise. He obsessively surveilled them for three weeks using a drone, learning their routines, contacts, and activities.

Muller then broke into Aaron’s house, tied them up, obscured their vision with goggles, played soothing music through headphones, and sexually assaulted Denise Huskins.

In fact, at least one other victim of Matthew Muller has come forward since his arrest to say that she too was sexually assaulted by Matt.

After Matt had taken Denise and left Aaron’s house with her, Aaron fell asleep from the drug given by Matthew. When he woke up the next morning, still affected by the drug in his system, he managed to get out of his restraints. He realized Denise was gone, and his immediate thought was, ‘I need to find a way to pay the ransom to this kidnapper.’ Matthew had demanded $8,500, so Aaron thought he could get that money.

He called his credit card company for a cash advance but didn’t want to disclose it was for a ransom, fearing the kidnapper would know he had spoken to authorities. Panicked, Aaron claimed he was buying a boat instead. Aaron also called Kaiser Hospital for both him and Denise, saying they were missing work. Matthew had instructed Aaron to do so or something would happen to Denise. Aaron followed these instructions, hoping to ensure Denise’s safety.

Regarding the email sent to the San Francisco Chronicle reporter, seemingly from the kidnappers but sent from Aaron’s email account, it was actually Matthew Muller who used a special program to hijack Aaron’s email address.

Denise Huskins sounded calm in her Proof of Life recording, likely due to shock at the time of recording, despite sounding relaxed. A side note: the reason behind the chemical smell in Aaron’s house remains unknown. It’s assumed that maybe when Aaron and Denise were all tied up and couldn’t see anything because of their goggles, Matthew Muller walked around their house and cleaned it, but this isn’t confirmed.

Aaron Quinn & Denise Huskins
Aaron Quinn & Denise Huskins

Matthew Muller is currently serving a 40-year sentence in prison for federal crimes. Recently, he was sentenced to an additional 31 years in prison for State crimes related to Aaron and Denise’s kidnappings.

Aaron and Denise Huskins sued the City of Vallejo, California, for mistreatment, winning $2.5 million.

Denise & Aaron with their lawyer
Denise & Aaron with their lawyer

They went on to marry, have a baby, and co-author a book titled ‘Vict F: From Crime Victims to Suspects to Survivors’ about their experience.

Victim F From Crime Victims to Suspects to Survivors
Victim F From Crime Victims to Suspects to Survivors

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