American Nightmare: Was the Vallejo Police Department ever held accountable?

Netflix's new docuseries American Nightmare follows the kidnapping of Denise Huskins in 2015 and the mishandling of the case by the Vallejo Police Department.

American Nightmare. Cr: Netflix.
American Nightmare. Cr: Netflix. /

Netflix has its first big true crime docuseries of the year that's bound to get people talking. The three-episode series, titled American Nightmare, follows the kidnapping of a young woman named Denise Huskins and the fallout, in which investigators and the media accused her of lying. In the middle of the night in March 2015, Huskins and her now-husband, Aaron Quinn, were woken up from their sleep by an intruder who drugged them and took Huskins. She was held hostage for two days before being released.

Because of the bizarre circumstances around the kidnapping — the assailant was wearing a wetsuit, he made Huskins and Quinn wear goggles, and Quinn waited hours before reporting the incident — police believed Quinn was lying and was actually involved in Huskins' disappearance. But despite their interrogation, Quinn maintained his innocence and grew frustrated at the police's unwillingness to look for Huskins. The Vallejo Police Department did not want to help him, and when Huskins showed up in another part of California days later, they blamed the couple.

Who kidnapped Denise Huskins?

Let's get this straight — Huskins was, in fact, kidnapped. She was taken that night in March 2015 by a man named Matthew Muller, and no, it was not a hoax. Huskins and Quinn were unfairly targeted by investigators and the media, with many comparing the crime to the David Fincher movie Gone Girl. It was a sexist attack on Huskins and something that made her trauma all the more difficult to work through.

American Nightmare
American Nightmare - Courtesy Netflix /

Huskins and Quinn eventually found out that Muller apparently didn't even mean to kidnap Huskins; he said he was supposedly trying to kidnap Quinn's ex-girlfriend, a woman named Andrea who also had blonde hair. The whole thing is truly shocking, and the fact that the couple wasn't believed makes it so much more terrible. If the Vallejo Police had used Quinn's phone (which they confiscated and put on airplane mode) to track the phone call he received from Muller, they could have found Huskins and prevented repeated sexual assault.

Denise Huskins and Aaron Quinn sued the city of Vallejo

Fortunately, Muller was eventually caught and charged with the kidnapping of Huskins — but it wasn't because of the Vallejo Police Department. A police officer named Misty Carausu from Dublin, California connected the dots when learning about Muller from other home invasions. After a tip-off from Muller's mom, Carausu and her team obtained a search warrant for the family's home in South Lake Tahoe, and the state of the place was a major red flag. Though Muller was not there when they arrived, Carausu realized something very bad had taken place there. She'd later find out that it's where Huskins was being held captive.

Justice was finally served because of Carausu and the Dublin police, and Muller was arrested and put behind bars. He's currently in prison at FCI Tucson in Arizona. As for the Vallejo Police Department, the team that was supposed to serve people like Huskins and Quinn, the city had to pay up. But not nearly enough, in my opinion.

Huskins and Quinn sued the city of Vallejo in 2016 for defamation and were awarded $2.5 million in a settlement. That said, the department got away with their mishandling of the case and I don't believe they were held accountable whatsoever. As the conclusion of the docuseries states, none of the officers who were involved in the case were ever "disciplined." Mat Mustard, the lead detective, even got awarded for his shameful behavior, being recognized as "Officer of the Year" in 2015. Horrible.

In 2021, the city and police department issued an official apology to the couple, but it was a bit too little too late. The apology came while the couple was promoting their book, Victim F: From Crime Victims, To Suspects, To Survivors.

American Nightmare. Cr: Netflix. /

In an interview with ABC7 News, the couple reacted to the apology, with Quinn saying: "They only apologized after major news outlets reached out and our book is being released."

"I think the thing that really matters most is action and showing not just us but the whole community of Vallejo that Vallejo Police Department is dedicated to making changes."

Denise Huskins

As explained in the docuseries, Quinn and Huskins eventually met Carausu after Muller was caught, which proved to be a heartfelt and much-overdue introduction. “All I’ve wanted this whole time was someone in law enforcement to call a hero,” Huskins says in the show, referring to Carausu. If it wasn't for her, who knows if the kidnapper would ever be caught?

To learn more about the case, check out American Nightmare right now on Netflix.

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