‘American Nightmare:’ What you need to know about Netflix’s documentary about a Bay Area kidnapping

‘American Nightmare:’ What you need to know about Netflix’s documentary about a Bay Area kidnapping

Editor’s Note: This story contains spoilers for Netflix’s “American Nightmare.”

Netflix has found its sweet spot with buzzy true crime series and the latest, “American Nightmare,” is quite the tale.

Here’s the background on what the three-part docuseries is about:

Remember “Gone Girl?”

In March 2015, Denise Huskins and her now husband Aaron Quinn reported to police that they had been the victims of a home invasion. Huskins was kidnapped for ransom and sexually assaulted. Days later, just before the $8500 ransom was due, Huskins was released by one of her captors near her parents’ home in Orange County, CA.

But their nightmare continued as authorities first tried to pin the crime on Quinn, then suggested their story was a hoax and drew parallels to David Fincher’s film “Gone Girl.” The 2014 thriller, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, centered around a woman who fakes her own abduction to frame her husband.

The couple found themselves in the midst of a media firestorm.

The case

Huskins and Quinn said they woke in the middle of the night to a blinding light and a man’s voice inside their Vallejo, California, home.

According to the couple, they were tied up, blindfolded and eventually sedated before Huskins was spirited away in the trunk of a car. Quinn had been told to await a ransom demand.

Police initially theorized that Quinn had harmed his then girlfriend given that he didn’t contact authorities for hours after the event – even though he claimed to have been drugged and unconscious – and what they viewed as other inconstancies in his story.

Things took a turn, however, after Huskins turned up 400 miles away near the Huntington Beach neighborhood where she grew up and authorities shifted the blame.

“There is no evidence to support the claims that this was a stranger abduction or an abduction at all,” authorities said at the time. “Given the facts that have been presented thus far, this event appears to be an orchestrated event and not a kidnapping.”

The fallout

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Huskins was forced to hire an attorney to defend herself and many in the public believed that she had indeed faked her abduction. Things took a bizarre twist when the alleged abductors appeared to feel guilty over her treatment and began emailing The San Francisco Chronicle about it.

“We cannot stand to see two good people thrown under the bus by the police and media, when Ms. Victim F (Huskins) and Mr. Victim M (Quinn) should have received only support and sympathy,” the email read. “We are responsible for the victims’ suffering and the least we can do is come forward to prove they are not lying.”

Months later, a former Marine and disbarred Harvard-trained attorney was arrested for a similar crime. Evidence was found linking him to Huskins and Quinn’s case. He later pleaded guilty to kidnapping and rape and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

The couple filed a defamation suit against the city of Vallejo and in 2018 won a $2.5 million settlement.

The “Tinder Swindler” connection

The new docuseries was done by filmmakers Felicity Morris and Bernadette Higgins, who are known for another hit Netflix true crime series, “The Tinder Swindler.”

The show had audiences enthralled with the story of a man who went by the name Simon Leviev and pretended to be the wealthy heir of a jewelry fortune as he scammed women he met on the dating app Tinder.

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