Why Did Matthew Muller Kidnap Denise Huskins? American Nightmare Crime Explained

By Sam Hargrave Posted:
Matthew Muller and Denise Huskins from American Nightmare

Netflix's true crime series American Nightmare put the spotlight on the March 2015 kidnapping of Denise Huskins, then 29, from her home in Vallejo, California. 

But why did Matthew Muller actually kidnap his victim?

Everything to Know About Denise Huskins' Kidnapping

American Nightmare, Netflix

Denise Huskins was drugged, bound, and kidnapped from her home after a masked intruder, later identified as Matthew Muller, broke into the home where she lived with her boyfriend Aaron Quinn and took her overnight.

A common theory at the time branded Huskins as "the real Gone Girl," accusing her and Quinn of stating the abduction in a fashion similar to that of Gone Girl - a popular book that was adapted into a movie starring Ben Affleck.

Quinn was a major suspect in the case after he offered a bizarre account to authorities of how a kidnapper in a wetsuit forced the couple to take a drink laced with sedatives while they made away with his partner Denise.

Denise, whose kidnapping took place on March 23, 2015, was held for 48 hours by her abductor at his residence in South Lake Tahoe, California. During this time she was sexually assaulted twice on camera before being given another sedative and returned to her family home in Huntington Beach, California.

The kidnapper emailed Quinn while he was holding Huskins to demand a ransom of $17,000, but she was ultimately released with no such payment.

The Reason Why Matthew Muller Kidnapped Denise Huskins

American Nightmare, Netflix, Denise Huskins

After Huskins' release, many continued drawing similarities to Gone Girl and accusing her of wasting police investigation time before the kidnappers came forward and claimed responsibility to "prove they are not lying:"

"We are responsible for the victims’ suffering, and the least we can do is come forward to prove they are not lying."

This came after a statement from the Vallejo Police Department claimed "no evidence" of an abduction, saying it appeared to be "an orchestrated event:"

“There is no evidence to support the claims that this was a stranger abduction or an abduction at all. Given the facts that have been presented thus far, this event appears to be an orchestrated event and not a kidnapping.”

The truth behind Denise Huskins' kidnapping was only uncovered after another incident months later with key similarities that took place in Dublin, California.

In this Dublin case, the victims managed to fight back leading to the kidnapper fleeing and dropping his phone, from which police managed to trace the former Marine and disbarred lawyer Matthew Muller as the owner and perpetrator.

The phone, which included evidence linking Muller to Huskins' abduction, also tied the kidnapper to other similar incidents. 

But why did Matthew Muller kidnap Denise Huskins?

Well, as it turns out, Denise Huskins was never the intended target, as Matthew Muller told her during the ordeal how he was “part of this black market company that kidnaps people for money.” 

The actual target was her boyfriend Aaron Quinn's ex-girlfriend, although Muller never explained why he was in pursuit of her either. It did not appear the sexual assault against Huskins was at least the primary motivator in the initial kidnapping.

Where is Kidnapper Matthew Muller Now?

American Nightmare, Netflix, Matthew Muller

Matthew Muller was arrested on June 8, 2015 as part of this separate home invasion case before evidence tied him to other crimes.

Muller, now aged 46, was sentenced in 2017 to 40 years in prison for Huskins' kidnapping by U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley. The judge told at the sentencing how Muller had "used his considerable intelligence" to conduct the "physical assault and psychological torture" of his victims:

“The sentence imposed today reflects the egregiousness of Muller’s conduct in this case. Muller had advantages in life that most people only dream of, yet he used his considerable intelligence to plan and execute the physical assault and psychological torture of two innocent strangers.”

During the hearing, Muller's defense attorney Thomas Johnson attempted to secure a 30-year sentence due to his client's diagnosis as manic and depressive.

Years later in 2022, Muller was sentenced to 31 years in prison for two counts of rape along with three other charges at Solano County Superior Court. This state sentence is currently being served concurrently with his federal sentence. 

He is currently serving this sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, Arizona with a release schedule from July 8, 2049, by which point Muller will then be over 70 years old.

In a jailhouse interview with NBC Bay Area in 2018, Muller claimed he was innocent and only pled guilty to ensure the couple "achieved justice for that wrongful accusation" made by the Vallejo Police Department:

“I don’t think there’s any excuse for the way the Vallejo Police Department handled it. That’s why I thought it was worth it to take a dive and made sure they achieved justice for that wrongful accusation.”

All three episodes of American Nightmare are streaming now on Netflix.

- About The Author: Sam Hargrave
Sam Hargrave is the Associate Editor at The Direct. He joined the team as a gaming writer in 2020 before later expanding into writing for all areas of The Direct and taking on further responsibilities such as editorial tasks and image creation.