California man tied to 'Gone Girl' kidnap pleads guilty in separate case

Reuters News
|
Posted: Sep 18, 2015 6:02 PM

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) - A Northern California man suspected in a high-profile kidnapping that drew comparisons to the film "Gone Girl" pleaded no contest on Friday to charges that he later attempted a home robbery against another couple, prosecutors said.

Matthew Muller, 38, entered his plea, which under California law is the legal equivalent of a guilty plea, in a state court the San Francisco Bay Area community of Pleasanton. He fainted at one point during the hearing, according to local media reports.

An Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit has linked Muller to the suspected kidnapping-for-ransom on March 23 of 30-year-old Denise Haskins from Vallejo, California. Police in that city initially dismissed as a fabrication when she turned up two days later in Southern California, drawing comparisons in the media to the hoax plot of the 2014 film "Gone Girl."

The couple's ordeal gained renewed interest after Muller was arrested in June for a home invasion in the San Francisco Bay Area town of Dublin and the FBI found similarities between that attack and the reported kidnapping of Haskins.

Haskins and her boyfriend on Thursday filed legal claims accusing Vallejo police of bungling the kidnapping report and showing hostility toward them.

In the Dublin case, authorities say a masked Muller broke into the home of Chung and Lynn Yen and threatened to tie them up. Chung Yen then fought with Muller, who hit him in the head with the flashlight and fled, according to court papers.

Muller left behind a cell phone and was tracked to a cabin in South Lake Tahoe where police arrested him and said they found zip-ties and fake pistols.

Muller pleaded no contest on Friday to charges of attempted first-degree residential robbery, burglary and assault with a deadly weapon in the Dublin case, said Rebecca Richardson, spokeswoman for the Alameda County District Attorney's Office.

He faces up to 11 years in prison when he is sentenced on November 13, she said.

Richardson said Muller was scheduled to be transferred to federal custody, but a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for Northern California said he had no information Muller that had been formally charged in connection with the Vallejo kidnapping.

Haskins and her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, who says investigators suggested he killed his girlfriend when he reported her kidnapping, are seeking an unspecified amount of damages in their legal claims. A city spokeswoman declined to comment on the claims.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Lisa Lambert)