Police in Vallejo say a head-scratching "kidnapping" there that ended with the "victim" turning up safe at her father's Huntington Beach apartment Wednesday was a hoax.
And now the 28-year-old physical therapist at the center of it all, Denise Huskins, is missing again. She was due to board an FBI jet for a trip back to Vallejo, but she did not show up--although she did reportedly lawyer up.
That was after Vallejo Police Lt. Kenny Park said this Wednesday night: "Today 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."
On Wednesday morning, it had been reported that Huskins' boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, had told police that his 29-year-old girlfriend had been kidnapped from their Vallejo home and a ransom was being sought. But his story was hinky from the start. Quinn said his physical therapist girlfriend first disappeared early Monday, but he did not report the kidnapping to police in the Northern California town until 12 hours later.
The amount of that ransom: $8,500.
When reporters in Southern California caught up with Huskins' father in Huntington Beach, he was dubious of the story from his daughter's boyfriend of seven months. But better safe than sorry; Michael Huskins immediately left his Surf City apartment for Vallejo, where he made an emotional appeal to kidnappers through San Francisco television station KGO-TV.
"Don't hurt her, please don't hurt her," he said. "... The biggest fear is the horror she might be going through ... that's my biggest fear. The horror, she doesn't deserve that, not from anybody. ,,, It's like a nightmare that I can't wake up from. This is not supposed to happen."
Given the way events were unfolding, one recognized the broad strokes of a 43-minute network television police procedural. The San Francisco Chronicle posted an audio clip on which Denise Huskins says: "My name is Denise Huskins. I am kidnapped, otherwise I'm fine. Earlier today there was a plane crash in Alps and 158 people died. And one thing that people know about me is that I went to my first concert, me and my mom, to Blink 182 ... [inaudible]."
Chronicle editor in chief Audrey Cooper said the paper also received an anonymous email that stated Huskins would be "returned safely (Wednesday). 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. 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."
Michael Huskins received a voicemail while in Vallejo Wednesday morning saying his daughter had been dropped off at his apartment in Huntington Beach. The dad then relayed the information to Vallejo Police investigators.
"I almost had a heart attack," he told the Chronicle. "I tried to get authorities to pick her up, but they kept asking me a bunch of questions. I said, 'Send a squad car.' I was hyperventilating."
The Vallejo cops relayed the information to Huntington Beach detectives, who found Denise Huskins in good condition and with no apparent injuries at her father's apartment, according to Huntington Beach Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Marlatt.
The once-missing woman later left to stay elsewhere, with plans to eventually make her way back to Vallejo with the help of her family, Marlatt said.
Park, the Vallejo police lieutenant, revealed his agency had taken the lead in the case, adding the FBI was brought in to help investigate. It was the G-men who made the offer to fly Huskins up immediately, at a time she was said to be cooperating with them.
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But then, poof, she was a gone girl again. Before Huskins disappeared, she informed police she had hired a lawyer.
Late Wednesday, Park said if Huskins or 30-year-old Quinn committed any criminal act in the false story, federal charges will be sought. The cop lamented the amount of taxpayer funds that had been spent in a search for the woman that included, with apologies to Elvis Costello, dragging the (manmade) lake.
A puzzled local media can't find her family members who were so eager to speak yesterday.