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Was Sherri Papini really kidnapped and released? 20/20 on ID investigate the facts

Profile pic of Sherri Papini
Sherri Papini claims she was held captive for 22 days. Pic credit: Shasta County Sheriff’s Office

20/20 on ID is investigating the case of Sherri Papini from Redding, California, who was allegedly kidnapped in 2016, sparking a massive search and a wave of concern across the nation.

Luckily, she was located three weeks later; however, the perpetrators are yet to be captured. A lack of progress on the case has led to many wondering if the kidnapping was actually a hoax.

Sherri Papini, a young married mother with two small children from Redding, was out jogging near her home when she was abducted on November 2, 2016. Her husband, Keith Papini, became concerned when he arrived home from work and realized she was missing.

Keith then learned that his wife hadn’t collected their children from daycare. The concern levels mounted when she didn’t respond to texts or phone calls. Keith used the Find My iPhone app to locate her cellphone, which he found lying on a sidewalk with his wife’s headphones wrapped neatly around it.

A massive search for Sherri was subsequently launched, and the case received widespread media attention with appeals made across the country. A GoFundMe page raised approximately $50,000.

Amazingly, the search was called off when Sherri was discovered alive three weeks later in Yolo County, 150 miles south of where she was abducted. She flagged down a passing motorist by the side of the interstate, thereby raising the alarm.

The mother, nicknamed ‘Supermom,’ by family members, was badly battered and bruised; her hair had been hacked off, and she had been branded on her shoulder. According to her husband, she’d also lost a lot of weight. She had not been sexually assaulted.

Sherri Papini says two Hispanic women abducted her

Sherri claimed that she’d been abducted and held captive by two armed Hispanic women driving a grey SUV. She says they released her 22 days later. However, she could not give a thorough description of her captives as they had kept their faces covered the entire time.

Investigators conducted forensic tests, which showed she had male DNA on her clothes that did not belong to her husband. The cops also learned that Sherri had been texting another man shortly before her disappearance. This man was located in Michigan but was quickly eliminated from inquiries.

The police have struggled with this case, and there have been suggestions that the whole incident might have been a hoax. A motive for the abduction has not been adequately explained, and female kidnappers are exceptionally rare.

In 2020, the New York Post reported that an anonymous tipster had contacted the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office to say Papini had spent the 22 days in his company in southern California and that it was all a hoax.

Documents later emerged to suggest that Sherri had run away before, which has added more fuel to theories that the kidnapping was faked.

The Papini family has reportedly become quite reclusive since the kidnapping, but they recently issued a statement saying they still hoped that the case would be solved. The Sheriff’s Office says the investigation is ongoing and that the FBI is assisting them.

More from 20/20 on ID

Follow the links to read about more horrific crimes profiled on 20/20 on ID.

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Raymond Rowe, aka DJ Freez, was a minor celebrity in Lancaster, Pennslyvania, until a 2018 DNA check revealed he’d been responsible for the brutal rape and murder of schoolteacher Christy Mirack in her home 25 years previously.

20/20 on ID airs at 11/10c on Investigation Discovery.

Jerry was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, but is now based in the UK. He specializes in true crime and entertainment news stories. When... read more
Jerry Brown

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