A 29-year-old woman who had reportedly been kidnapped and held for ransom is missing again. But this time, police said late Wednesday, she’s gone off on her own in an effort to avoid questioning by detectives.
The elaborate reported kidnap of Denise Huskins, which allegedly began before the sun rose Monday with Huskins being taken from her Mare Island home, is now being investigated as one big hoax.
Police said they lost contact with Huskins after the woman told detectives she would be willing to submit to questioning about her alleged kidnapping. She hasn’t been heard from since.
The woman is believed to be somewhere in her hometown of Huntington Beach, where Huskins turned up alive Wednesday – dropped off, presumably by her alleged kidnappers – after two days of round-the-clock searching by local, state and federal investigators.
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All told, Vallejo police spokesman Lt. Kenny Park said, more than 40 detectives and 100 support personnel were involved in the efforts to find Huskins and bring her home safely.
“(Huskins) plundered valuable resources away from our community ... while instilling fear in our community,” Park said. “We wasted all these resources on basically nothing.”
It was not immediately clear whether Huskins would face criminal charges at the state or federal level. No warrant was immediately issued for her arrest, though Park said two Vallejo detectives have been sent to Huntington Beach.
Family members, who had been in contact with police since Huskins allegedly disappeared Monday, have also fallen out of contact.
The woman’s boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, with whom she had been living, was brought in for questioning Wednesday and spun a tale so unbelievable that detectives began to doubt the kidnapping claims, Park said. Though Park declined to go into detail about what Quinn told police, he noted it turned on why it took Quinn several hours to call police after his girlfriend was allegedly taken from their home.
“That was the incredible part,” Park said.
Quinn called the police about 2 p.m. Monday to report the kidnapping, which allegedly happened overnight. Quinn, 30, like Huskins, is a Kaiser Permanente physical therapist. The two shared a home in the 500 block of Kirkland Avenue on Mare Island.
Quinn did not return calls from The Sacramento Bee for comment Wednesday.
Huskins’ car, a 2000 Toyota Camry, also initially believed to have been taken from the home, was later found in Vallejo, police said.
The kidnappers, police said, were reportedly seeking an $8,500 sum in exchange for the safe return of Huskins. Police declined to say Wednesday whether that ransom was ever paid.
On Tuesday, search dogs honed in on a scent near the Mare Island Strait and investigators spent the night searching, using both dive teams and sonar.
Throughout it all, relatives said they remained hopeful that Huskins was alive, her uncle Jeff Kane told The Bee early Wednesday, aided in part by “proof of life” correspondences with the San Francisco Chronicle.
According to the newspaper, an anonymous person emailed claiming to be holding Huskins. The person wrote that Huskins “will 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.”
On Wednesday, a small shrine – bright yellow flowers and a green candle inside a pickle jar – sat along the curb of the sidewalk outside the house on Kirkland Avenue that Huskins and Quinn shared.
No windows appeared to be broken. The front door showed no sign of forced entry.
The house sits in an enclave on a suburban street with neatly manicured lawns, tucked away from the island’s two points of entry.
When Huskins turned up in Huntington Beach about 10 a.m. Wednesday, she was dropped off within walking distance of her parents’ homes. She walked to her father’s building, where she was met by one of his tenants and, eventually, Huntington Beach police officers.
Huntington Beach police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Marlatt said Wednesday that Huskins was found safe with no reported injuries and released into the care of a family member in the area.
Quinn, who was released by police after his interview with detectives, remained out of custody late Wednesday.