Woman's safe return caps bizarre kidnap-for-ransom ordeal

Thursday, March 26, 2015
A news crew reports on the abduction of Denise Huskins in front of the home she was taken from in Vallejo, California, on Wednesday. (Chris Riley ~ Vallejo Times-Herald)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. -- A woman whose boyfriend reported that intruders abducted her from their San Francisco Bay Area home and held her for ransom was found safe Wednesday at her father's Southern California apartment.

Denise Huskins disappeared early Monday and her father, Mike Huskins, traveled to Northern California to help with the search. Around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, he said she called him to say she had been dropped off at her mother's Huntington Beach house, about 400 miles from where she was last seen.

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 Huskins said.

Reina Yorba, 12, said she and her mother, Anissa, heard the woman pounding loudly on her father's door in their apartment complex. Then they saw her borrow a cellphone from a neighbor.

Denise Huskins

"When she was talking, it was panicky. It was loud and panicky," Reina said. She added officers arrived within minutes.

Huskins' return capped a bizarre ordeal that began when her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, told police she was forcefully taken in the middle of the night from their Mare Island home in Vallejo. Quinn called police about 2 p.m. Monday to report she had been abducted.

It's unclear why Quinn, 30, took so long to alert authorities, but he is not considered a suspect. Park described him as a witness and a victim.

A car registered to Quinn was taken from the couple's home and found at an undisclosed location, investigators said.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Chronicle received an email from an anonymous person claiming to be holding the 29-year-old woman. The person wrote 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 email 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."

The email included an audio file of a woman identifying herself as Denise Huskins, who mentioned Tuesday's airliner crash in the French Alps to verify she was alive. Mike Huskins confirmed the voice in the file was his daughter's, the Chronicle reported.

Police in Vallejo told reporters Wednesday they will continue to treat Huskins' disappearance as a kidnapping-for-ransom unless evidence points them in another direction. Police Lt. Kenny Park declined to say whether any money was exchanged.

Huskins' father said he knew nothing about a ransom.

"No ransom was ever discussed with me. But police aren't telling me everything that they heard," he said. "It's going to take a while before it all sorts out, I think."

For now, he said, he's just happy to know his daughter is safe. He said he has no doubt she was kidnapped.

"I feel very relieved. Can you imagine? You can't unless you've experienced it," he said. "I don't recommend this experience for anybody."

Vallejo police said they planned to travel to Huntington Beach to talk to Denise Huskins. Park said she has been very cooperative and investigators want to question her in more detail.

Denise Huskins works as a physical therapist at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Vallejo. She moved to the area in June from Southern California.

Her uncle, Jeff Kane, described her as a person of sterling character, saying she is career-oriented, independent and strong. "She's a good girl, not into any bad things," he said.

Associated Press writers Ellen Knickmeyer in Vallejo and Scott Smith in Fresno, as well as AP researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York, contributed to this story.

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