VALLEJO (KRON) — Matthew Muller pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of kidnapping in a bizarre case that led to a lawsuit against Vallejo police for falsely accusing the two victims of faking their own abduction.
The 39-year-old was indicted last year for assaulting a Vallejo woman and her boyfriend in their Mare Island home as they slept on March 23, 2015.
According to a lawsuit filed by the couple, the assailant bound them both with zip ties, blindfolded them, drugged them and interrogated them in separate rooms.
He eventually took the woman, still bound and blindfolded, in the truck of his car and raped her twice, holding her hostage while keeping her blindfolded with taped-over swim goggles, according to the suit. During that time, the kidnapper contacted the news media and sent a recording of the woman.
Eventually she was released two days later near her parents’ home in Huntington Beach. During the time she was held captive, Vallejo police first accused her boyfriend of killing her, then when she was found safe, they called a news conference and accused the couple of fabricating the entire ordeal.
Eventually Dublin police and the FBI connected Muller to the crime through a similar home invasion robbery in Dublin a few months later on June 5. In that case, a masked man broke into a couple’s home as they slept and tried to bind them, but they attacked him and chased him out of the house.
Dublin police learned of two other similar incidents in Mountain View and Palo Alto. In both incidents, a masked man wearing all black bound, blindfolded and drugged sleeping victims and tried to rob them and rape them, according to the suit. Palo Alto police had even questioned Muller.
After Dublin police tracked Muller through a cellphone he left behind at the robbery scene, the FBI connected him to the Vallejo kidnapping through evidence found at Muller’s mother’s home in South Lake Tahoe. He was arrested June 8, 2015.
Muller pleaded no contest last September to attempted robbery, burglary and assault with a deadly weapon for the Dublin home invasion and was indicted in October on the federal charges.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit filed by the kidnapping victims against the Vallejo Police Department, including Detective Matthew Mustard and spokesman Lt. Kenny Park, is still pending in federal court.
The couple is seeking unspecified damages for defamation, unreasonable search and seizure, false arrest and false imprisonment.
Muller is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley on January 19, 2017 at 1:30 p.m.
Muller faces a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
Here is more from the Federal Prosecutor on the crime:
|SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Matthew Muller, 39, of South Lake Tahoe, pleaded guilty today to one count of kidnapping, Acting United States Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced. |
According to court documents, on March 23, 2015, between 3:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., Muller broke into a home on Mare Island in Vallejo and using a stun gun and a simulated firearm, ordered the occupants, Aaron Quinn and Denise Huskins, to lie still while he bound them, blindfolded them, and had them drink a sleep-inducing liquid.
Muller played a prerecorded message to the victims that threatened that any noncompliance would be punished by face cutting or electric shock.
Muller sent Quinn emails demanding ransom amounts totaling $15,000, but ultimately released Huskins in Huntington Beach on March 25, 2015, with no ransom ever being paid.
Muller played a prerecorded message to the victims that threatened that any noncompliance would be punished by face cutting or electric shock. Muller then placed Huskins in the trunk of a car and drove her to his residence in South Lake Tahoe where he kept her under his control for two days, at times bound and blindfolded. Muller sent Quinn emails demanding ransom amounts totaling $15,000, but ultimately released Huskins in Huntington Beach on March 25, 2015, with no ransom ever being paid.
During and after the kidnapping, Muller sent emails to a reporter in San Francisco, that claimed, among other things, that the kidnapping had been carried out by a group of elite criminals who were perfecting their kidnapping-for-ransom tactics.
Muller was identified as a suspect in the Vallejo kidnapping following an investigation into a home-invasion burglary that occurred in Alameda County on June 5, 2015. Dublin Police Services of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department arrested Muller and searched his South Lake Tahoe residence. They located and seized evidence from the Vallejo kidnapping. An officer of the Vallejo Police Department located Muller’s Vallejo storage locker and a search revealed aerial drones that Muller referred to in his emails to the reporter.
FBI analysis of Muller’s computers uncovered a sound recording that simulated people whispering to each other, a sound recording consistent with the instructions given to Aaron Quinn and Denise Huskins, and a video recording of Muller together with Huskins in Muller’s residence. She was blindfolded and fully under Muller’s control.
This case is the product of an investigation by the FBI, the Dublin Police Services of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, and the Vallejo Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew D. Segal and Heiko P. Coppola are prosecuting the case.
Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said, “Muller committed a serious and violent crime that terrorized the victims in this case. He violated the sanctity of their home and caused fear and panic for all those affected by the kidnapping. My office is grateful that Alameda County authorities responded so effectively to the Alameda County break-in and then provided the information that led to the investigation and charges in this case. The high quality of the work by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, the Alameda County District Attorney, the Vallejo Police Department, and the FBI is reflected in the two guilty pleas Muller has entered, first in Alameda County and now in the Eastern District of California. We are committed to continuing to seek justice in this case as it continues to sentencing.”
Muller is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley on January 19, 2017 at 1:30 p.m. Muller faces a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
As long as Muller accepts responsibility and adheres to his promises in the plea agreement, the plea agreement provides that the Government will recommend a sentence of no more than forty years of imprisonment. There is no parole in the federal system. Under the plea agreement, upon release, Muller should be subject to the most intensive supervision, surveillance, and monitoring that is technologically available at the time of his release. The plea binds only the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California and cannot bind any other federal, state, or local prosecuting, administrative, or regulatory authorities.