Image Credit: Netflix
American Nightmare dives deep into Denise Huskins’ kidnapping and the subsequent events that followed. The 3-part docuseries dropped on January 17 and features shocking twists and turns. Denise, her boyfriend Aaron Quinn, and more speak out about the jaw-dropping series of events that had many thinking this was a hoax inspired by the movie Gone Girl.
So, what exactly happened to Denise? Who is responsible for her kidnapping? Hollywood Life is breaking down the shocking case that’s explored in American Nightmare.
What Happened to Denise Huskins?
Denise was kidnapped in Vallejo, California, on the night of March 22, 2015. The next morning, Denise’s boyfriend Aaron called 911 to report her kidnapping. He told police that kidnappers tied him and Denise up, and then took Denise. They gave him a sedative, so he didn’t wake up until the next morning.
Aaron Quinn in ‘American Nightmare.’ (Netflix)
During his conversation with police, Aaron said that the kidnappers told him that the kidnapping was intended for Andrea, Aaron’s ex-fiancee. She had been living at the house before Denise moved in. The kidnappers were still planning on taking Denise and wanted $15,000 from Aaron. One of the kidnappers stole Aaron’s car and drove away with Denise.
After Denise had been missing for 31 hours, Henry Lee, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, received an audio file of Denise. “Hi, my name is Denise Huskins. I’m kidnapped. Otherwise, I’m fine,” she said.
Three days after her kidnapping, Denise resurfaced at her dad’s house in Huntington Beach, California, over 400 miles from where she was originally kidnapped. Denise could be seen in security footage walking to her dad’s place.
While police were interrogating Aaron and believed that he had harmed Denise, she was fighting to stay alive. In the second episode of the docuseries, Denise recalled her terrifying ordeal. She was put into the trunk of Aaron’s car and then transferred to another vehicle.
Like Aaron, Denise was drugged, tied up, and had her eyes covered with blacked-out swim goggles. She was brought to a house, and her kidnapper said this was “meant for Andrea.” He claimed to be “part of this black market company that kidnap people for money.”
The kidnapper told Denise that there wasn’t any collateral to ensure that she wouldn’t talk to the police once she was released. He raped Denise and threatened to release the footage on the internet if she talked.
The next day, the kidnapper revealed to Denise that his associates were on their way. He later said that she needed to record a proof of life, and that’s when she recorded the audio. He claimed his associates didn’t think the previous footage of the first rape was enough. He told Denise that they had to record them having sex again and it had to look consensual. Denise was raped a second time.
Denise Huskins in ‘American Nightmare.’ (Netflix)
After being missing for nearly 48 hours, Denise’s kidnapper told her that she was being released. She was given another sedative and taken to Huntington Beach, California. Before he let her go, the kidnapper told her that she could not tell the police that “one of us was in the military” and that they had sex. “We will always be watching you,” the kidnapper warned before threatening Denise and her family. She was dropped off in Huntington Beach and walked to her dad’s house.
Who Kidnapped Denise Huskins?
Matthew Muller kidnapped Denise Huskins. However, police didn’t find Denise’s kidnapper and rapist until months after the kidnapping. In June 2015, there was a break-in in Dublin, California, about 40 miles from Vallejo. The owner of the house fought off the intruder who was trying to rape his daughter. The intruder left his phone behind. The subscriber of the phone revealed that the phone belonged to her son Matthew Muller.
Matthew is a former Marine and a Harvard Law graduate. He had worked as an immigration lawyer but was disbarred. He had been a suspect in sexual batteries and attempted rapes. Matthew’s mom told police that he was staying at her cabin in South Lake Tahoe.
Matthew was arrested at his cabin for the Dublin burglary. Sgt. Misty Carausu, a detective for the Dublin PD, found a pair of blacked-out swim goggles with a single strand of blonde hair.
Meanwhile, Aaron and Denise were accused of making up the entire kidnapping story by the police and the media. Sgt. Carausu began investigating Matthew and cases that he was possibly connected to prior to the home invasion. She eventually stumbled onto Denise’s kidnapping case. Sgt. Carausu put the evidence together and connected Matthew’s stolen Mustang to Denise’s case.
In the affidavit about Denise’s kidnapping, it was revealed that Aaron told Vallejo police that the kidnappers were going to contact him. Police put his phone on airplane mode and didn’t turn his phone on until the next evening. During that time, Matthew had called Aaron’s phone twice, and those calls were traceable to within 200 meters of the South Lake Tahoe cabin. In the final episode of the docuseries, Denise said that she could have been “saved” from the second rape if police hadn’t turned Aaron’s phone off.
In court, it was revealed that Matthew had used a “remote-controlled drone” to spy on Denise and Aaron before the kidnapping, according to CBS News. He also played a pre-recorded message that made it appear as if there was more than one kidnapper.
Are Denise Huskins and Aaron Quinn Still Together?
Yes, Denise and Aaron are still together. After the horrific ordeal, Denise and Aaron got married. They moved to the coast and “started a new life.”
Aaron Quinn and Denise Huskins in ‘American Nightmare.’ (Netflix)
They welcomed their first child, a daughter named Olivia, in 2020. They have since welcomed their second child, a daughter named Naomi. “It feels like our family is complete,” Aaron said in the docuseries.
Denise and Aaron sued the city of Vallejo for defamation in 2016. They settled out of court for $2.5 million.
What Happened to Matthew Muller?
In 2017, Matthew was sentenced to 40 years in prison for a federal kidnapping charge. He was not charged with the attempted rapes in Palo Alto and Mountain View or the peeping tom incidences on Mare Island that Sgt. Carausu investigated.
In 2022, Matthew was sentenced to an additional 31 years in state prison after pleading no contest to two counts of forcible rape, according to CBS News. He also pleaded guilty to robbery of an inhabited dwelling, residential burglary, and false imprisonment. Matthew said he was “sick with shame” for the “pain and horror” he inflicted on Denise and Aaron.