Police investigating the alleged kidnapping of a woman from a northern California home said late Wednesday — hours after she was “found” more than 400 miles away — that it was a hoax “orchestrated” with the woman’s boyfriend.
Authorities had originally treated the disappearance of 29-year-old Denise Huskins as a kidnap-for-ransom case, but said late Wednesday they had been unable to locate her or any of her family members after Huskins retained an attorney and stopped cooperating with police.
Vallejo police spokesman Lt. Kenny Park said that Huskins and her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, 30, have now become the targets of an investigation into whether they did anything illegal in reporting a random, violent abduction and a ransom request of $8,500.
“There is no evidence to support the claims that this was a stranger abduction or an abduction at all,” Park said in a statement. “Given the facts that have been presented thus far, this event appears to be an orchestrated event and not a kidnapping.”
Park told reporters at a news conference late Wednesday that police had doubts about Quinn’s initial report of the abduction, but said they had a responsibility to investigate thoroughly and speak cautiously to the public.
“It was such an incredible story, we initially had a hard time believing it and upon further investigation we couldn’t substantiate any of the things he was saying,” Park said.
Park also expressed disgust at the resources the two squandered — saying more than 40 detectives had worked on the case — and the fear they instilled in the community over what was reported as random violence.
“Devoting all of our resources 24 hours a day in a wild goose chase it’s a tremendous loss,” he said. “It’s disappointing, it’s disheartening. The fact that we wasted all of these resources for nothing, it’s upsetting.”
Huskins was found outside her father’s home in Huntington Beach, Calif., some 420 miles away from Vallejo, at approximately 10:30 a.m. local time Wednesday. Her father, Mike Huskins, had traveled to Northern California to help with the search. Around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, he said Denise called him to say she had been dropped off at her mother’s Huntington Beach house. No one was home, so she told him she walked the 12 blocks to his home near the beach.
“She wasn’t crying at all. She just said, `Daddy, I’m OK,’ ” an emotional Mike Huskins told The Associated Press.
Quinn had told police that Huskins was abducted early Monday morning from Mare Island in Vallejo, about 23 miles northeast of San Francisco, according to Park. However, the spokesman said Quinn did not actually contact police until 1:55 that afternoon.
Park said Wednesday night that Quinn’s waiting so long to inform them was part of what aroused suspicions. It was not clear whether police had had contact with Quinn since they decided the case was a hoax. Park said he was “free on his own” for now.
The San Francisco Chronicle obtained an audio recording — emailed to the newspaper on Tuesday — of a woman claiming to be Huskins. The woman calmly identifies herself as Huskins in the recording and talks about Tuesday’s plane crash in the French Alps to establish the date. She also states a personal detail about herself, saying the first concert she had attended in her life featured Blink 182 and Bad Religion. The Chronicle reported that Mike Huskins had confirmed the voice on the recording as his daughter’s.
The person who wrote the e-mail mentioned that she would be returned safely Wednesday, the newspaper reported.
“We will send a link to her location after she has been dropped off. She will be in good health and safe while she waits,” the e-mail read. “Any advance on us or our associates will create a dangerous situation for Denise. Wait until she is recovered and then proceed how you will. We will be ready.”