It's been several years since we had an update on Matthew Daniel Muller, the Harvard-educated, mentally ill man who pleaded guilty in a federal case to kidnapping a Vallejo woman, Denise Huskins, in a case that received national attention in 2015.
Muller has yet to stand trial in a state case stemming from Huskins's rape and kidnapping for ransom — the case was filed in Solano County Court in 2018, over a year after the federal conviction, and Muller faces felony charges kidnapping, forcible rape, robbery, burglary, and false imprisonment. In the last year, he's been remanded to a state mental hospital after a judge has declared him unfit to stand trial multiple times.
An attorney for Muller, during the federal sentencing in 2017, said that his client's mental illness was "truly debilitating." Muller has said that he suffers from bipolar disorder with extreme paranoia and psychosis — and court records indicate that he as refused to voluntarily take medication in recent years. As Bay Area News Group now reports, Muller, 44, had been acting as his own attorney — he previously worked in the law after graduating from Harvard Law School. But he's now being represented by a public defender.
In 2019, Muller filed a 35-page request for a speedy trial, citing his health and an assault that occurred while in prison. A jury trial had long been set for October 2020. But Solano County Judge Daniel Healy, in September of 2020, ordered a psychiatric evaluation of Muller, and in the intervening months Muller was placed a jail-based mental competency program, and then in a facility run by a contractor that houses inmates with mental health issues.
Bay Area News Group says that as of June, Muller has been in the Napa State Hospital, where he is being compelled to take antipsychotic medication.
The case of Huskins's March 2015 disappearance has continued to be fodder for shows like Taken and 20/20, in part because of its sheer strangeness, but also in part because of how poorly Vallejo police handled it. Before considering all the evidence, the police department took the oddities of the crime as described by the victims to be proof that it was all a made-up hoax, something done for attention — which only further exacerbated the trauma for Huskins. (The case would later lead to a civil suit by Huskins and her now husband Aaron Quinn against the department.)
Muller would later admit in a jailhouse interview and in court that he acted alone, and that he had surveilled Huskins and Quinn before deciding to break into their home in March 2015 and abduct Huskins — ostensibly as "practice" for committing larger crimes in a grandiose scheme in which he cast himself as one of a group of "gentlemen criminals" a la Ocean's 11.
Using drugs, zip ties and blindfolds, he bound both Quinn and Huskins, drugged them both, and put headphones on them playing pre-recorded messages that made them believe multiple assailants were involved. He then drove off with Huskins, assaulted her twice while she was tied to a bed, and eventually dropped her off near her father's home in Southern California after she told him about being assaulted earlier in her life.
Quinn was left in the meantime trying to explain to authorities what had happened, and then Muller sent an email to the Chronicle detailing the lies about the gentlemen criminal cabal, which further stoked the beliefs among law enforcement and the media that this was all made up. Those beliefs were seemingly confirmed when Huskins magically reappeared after two days, apparently unharmed.
It probably didn't help that Gone Girl, the film of Gillian Flynn's novel, had just come out in 2014, detailing how a woman staged her own violent abduction in order to get back at her husband.
Muller would subsequently be arrested in July 2015 and connected with the abduction after he botched a similar home-invasion robbery in Dublin — leaving a cellphone behind.
Huskins and Quinn have written a book, Victim F: From Crime Victims, To Suspects, To Survivors, which just came out in June 2021. And last year, just as the pandemic was setting in last year, Huskins gave birth to a daughter, Olivia, who was born five years to the day that Muller released Huskins.
Huskins told ABC News earlier this year that having her daughter filled a linger void that had been left after all that trauma.
"You can go through any kind of trauma to where it leaves you devastated and in a place where you just think, ‘This is impossible to move forward from. What do I do next?’” Huskins told ABC News. "I think ours is an example of that. There is hope. It might take time and it might be a lot of hard work, but there is hope."