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VALLEJO, Calif. – Investigators in Northern California say they were suspicious from the start of a boyfriend's report of the violent abduction of his girlfriend for an $8,500 ransom, yet had to take it seriously for the two days she was missing.
But on the same day Denise Huskins reappeared 400 miles away in Southern California, police revealed Wednesday that they had no evidence of any kidnapping, and instead believe the entire affair was a hoax concocted by the couple.
"It was such an incredible story, we initially had a hard time believing it," Vallejo police Lt. Kenny Park said of the abduction report from Aaron Quinn. "Upon further investigation we couldn't substantiate any of the things he was saying."
The investigation will now turn to Huskins, 29, and Quinn, 30, to determine whether they did anything illegal, Park said. He would not say whether the two may have had any accomplices.
The day began with what seemed to be a happy ending when Huskins showed up unharmed outside her father's apartment.
Her father, Mike Huskins, had traveled to Northern California to help with the search. 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 Mike Huskins told The Associated Press. "I feel very relieved. Can you imagine? You can't unless you've experienced it."
Denise Huskins had indicated she would talk to detectives, and the FBI had arranged to have her returned to Northern California via jet, police said.
By the end of the day police were unable to contact either Denise Huskins or her family members and they do not know where she is.
Park said she had retained an attorney, but the lawyer's identity wasn't released.
Quinn had told police she was forcefully taken in the middle of the night from their Mare Island home in Vallejo early Monday. Quinn called police at about 2 p.m. to report she had been abducted.
Park said Quinn's waiting so long to inform them is part of what aroused suspicions. It was not clear whether police had had contact with Quinn since they decided the case was a hoax. Park said he was "free on his own" for now.
Police expressed disgust at the resources the two squandered — saying over 40 detectives had worked on the case — and the fear they instilled in the community over what was reported as random violence.
"Devoting all of our resources 24 hours a day in a wild goose chase it's a tremendous loss," Park said. "It's disappointing, it's disheartening. The fact that we wasted all of these resources for nothing, it's upsetting."
Late Wednesday at the two-story wooden house where the abduction was reported, a bouquet of plastic flowers and a candle sat outside. The lights were on inside but it didn't appear anyone was home.
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 that 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.
Park said they had asked the Chronicle to hold off on revealing they had received the email until police could verify it was Huskins' voice, which they did.
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.
Flaccus reported from Huntington Beach, Calif. Associated Press Writers Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles and Olga Rodriguez in San Francisco contributed to this report.