VALLEJO, Calif. – The strange case of a California woman who disappeared for two days grew stranger still Thursday, with her uncle and a lawyer for her boyfriend insisting she was kidnapped while police said it was a hoax.
Attorney Dan Russo said his client Aaron Quinn had good reason for not immediately calling police when his girlfriend was abducted early Monday: At least two kidnappers bound and drugged him.
Investigators said they were suspicious when Quinn, 30, took hours to report that strangers broke into his Vallejo home, abducted Denise Huskins and directed an $8,500 ransom demand at him.
But Russo said the strangers restrained Quinn and "forced him to drink something" they said was a drug.
Quinn was even prepared to pay the ransom by the kidnappers' deadline of noon Wednesday, but Huskins was reported safe by then, the attorney said.
"(Quinn) has basically died and gone to hell. He is in terrible shape," Russo said. "He is exhausted both mentally and physically."
Russo added investigators tested Quinn's blood to determine if he was drugged but haven't revealed the results yet. He declined to release other details about how the alleged kidnapping unfolded, saying he didn't want to impede the investigation.
"We are as at sea as most of you as to what happened," the attorney said. But he noted Quinn "has no responsibility for what's going on."
Police could not immediately be reached for comment on his statements.
Huskins, 29, turned up Wednesday in Huntington Beach, about 400 miles from Vallejo. Hours later, police revealed they found no proof of a kidnapping and believed it was a hoax.
After the investigation turned to the couple, police said they were unable to contact Huskins or her family members and did not know where she was. They also said she hired an attorney.
Russo said Thursday that police questioned Quinn for 17 hours. He added his client has not been in contact with Huskins and is staying with family.
Jeff Kane, Huskins' uncle, told The Associated Press he was infuriated by the Vallejo Police Department's announcement that his niece's abduction was a hoax. Kane, of Huntington Beach, said police interviewed Huskins and her family for hours.
"They said, 'If you don't start telling the truth, we're going to offer you or your boyfriend the chance to tell the truth, and whoever goes first will get leniency,'" Kane said.
"I believe when the truth comes out, people are going to look at each other and say, 'That is the most horrific story I've ever heard. I can't imagine what she's gone through.'"
The alleged kidnapping occurred in the pre-dawn hours Monday, but Quinn didn't report it until around 2 p.m. That delay is part of what aroused suspicions, Vallejo police Lt. Kenny Park said.
"Upon further investigation, we couldn't substantiate any of the things he was saying," Park said Wednesday.
Park said Quinn was "free on his own" for now. He wouldn't say whether anyone else was involved in the alleged hoax.
Huskins is a physical therapist at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Vallejo. A Kaiser official declined to comment on her.
In 2005, Huskins pleaded guilty in Orange County to misdemeanor driving with a blood-alcohol content over the legal limit. Her sentence included three years' probation and a first offenders' alcohol program, online court records show.
She obtained a physical therapist's license in Massachusetts after studying at Long Island University in Brooklyn, according state online records. The license expired in 2014.
No complaints were lodged against her, said Jayda Leder-Luis, a licensing division spokeswoman.
In California, Huskins was licensed as a physical therapist in October 2013, according to the state's physical therapy board.
Quinn also is a physical therapist licensed in California.
Their next-door neighbor Dana Vandeweg said Quinn has lived there for a few years and has been kind and thoughtful. He adopted a stray cat and alerted neighbors ahead of the one or two quiet parties he hosted annually.
"We all are having a hard time believing he'd have anything to do with a thing like this," Vandeweg said. "It was just, 'This can't be!' He's just a nice guy."