A California mother has been arrested and is facing decades behind bars after authorities discovered she more than likely faked her own kidnapping.
Sherri Papini was reported missing in early November 2016, after she failed to return home from a jog. The disappearance set off a nationwide search that involved multiple law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. The then-34-year-old mother was found three weeks later on Thanksgiving Day, about 150 miles away from her Redding home. Papini told officers she had been abducted at gunpoint by two Hispanic women and was brutally abused throughout her captivity.
According to a federal complaint, the now-39-year-old woman was found with her hair cut off, multiple bruises, rashes on her thigh, a chain around her waist, and a branding on her shoulder. Papini provided a harrowing account of her alleged experience, as well as detailed descriptions of her abductors; however, prosecutors are now convinced she made the entire thing up.
In 2020, investigators confirmed they had found both male and female DNA on Papini’s clothing and body. The findings eventually led authorities to the woman’s ex-boyfriend, who later told police that the mother-of-two had been staying with him during her “disappearance.”
The ex-boyfriend told authorities that Papini was “a good friend” who had contacted him out of the blue and claimed she was being abused by her husband. The mother-of-two allegedly told her ex she had filed police reports, but authorities failed to do anything to stop her husband. The ex said he agreed to let Papini stay at his Costa Mesa apartment for several weeks.
Per the complaint:
Ex-Boyfriend said “she had something planned up” and he was trying to help her get away from Husband and be a good friend. Ex-Boyfriend and PAPINI had known each other since they were 13 or 14 years old and had a long history together as friends. The two also had a romantic relationship and had previously been engaged. Ex-Boyfriend told investigators that PAPINI reached out to him “out of the blue,” and that they had not spoken in 25 a long time because “she got married, she had kids.
Prosecutors say Papini denied her ex-boyfriend’s claims and continued to make false statements about her abduction. She also received more than $30,000 through the California Victim Compensation Board based on her fabricated story. The complaint states those funds were intended to cover the costs of the woman’s therapy “treatment for anxiety and PTSD.”
“When a young mother went missing in broad daylight, a community was filled with fear and concern,” U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert said in a statement, per ABC News. “Ultimately, the investigation revealed that there was no kidnapping and that time and resources that could have been used to investigate actual crime, protect the community, and provide resources to victims were wasted.”
Papini was arrested this week on charges of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer and mail fraud. She faces up to 25 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000 if found guilty.
The need to go ahead and send Miss Sherri to prison.