California mom Sherri Papini mysteriously disappeared during a jog in early November, and more than three weeks later, she was found on the side of a highway chained and beaten. Watch the video above to find out everything we know so far about the chilling abduction, and learn more about her ordeal below.
On November 2, Papini set out for a jog near her Redding, California, home. Sherri’s husband, Keith Papini, became worried and started searching for her after she failed to pick up their two kids from daycare that day. Keith used the Find My iPhone app to locate her phone and headphones about a mile away, but Sherri had vanished. He called the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department, who launched an extensive investigation into the 34-year-old’s disappearance.
After 22 days, Sherri was found just before dawn on Thursday, November 24, Thanksgiving Day, along a highway near Sacramento, 150 miles away from where she was jogging. Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said the mom of two walked to a nearby church after her captors threw her from a vehicle. No one was at the church, so Sherri then walked to I-5, where she flagged down a passing motorist. Bosenko said she was “very emotional” when found and was treated and released from a hospital with her husband “at her side.”
Keith issued a statement to Good Morning America on Tuesday, November 29, describing the gruesome details of his wife’s condition. "My first sight was my wife in a hospital bed, her face covered in bruises ranging from yellow to black because of repeated beatings, the bridge of her nose broken. Her now emaciated body of 87 pounds was covered in multicolored bruises, severe burns, red rashes and chain markings. Her signature long blonde hair had been chopped off. She has been branded,” he wrote. "Sherri was taken from us for 22 days and suffered incredibly through both intense physical agony and severe mental torture.”
He also slammed people who questioned whether her disappearance was a hoax. "We are not going to allow those people to take away our spirit, love or rejoice in our girl found alive and home where she belongs,” he continued. "I understand people want the story, pictures, proof that this was not some sort of hoax, plan to gain money or some fabricated race war. I do not see a purpose in addressing each preposterous lie.”
Bosenko later confirmed Keith’s account in an interview with Good Morning America. “I was familiar with those details. We had not released them yet to the public,” the sheriff said. He also said that a “message” was branded on Sherri’s skin by a “very sick person” and reiterated that there was “no reason to disbelieve” Sherri’s account amid the hoax rumors.
Authorities say they are looking for two armed Hispanic women driving a dark-colored SUV, but many things are still unclear in the case, including the motive and why her captors let her go. No ransom was sought for Sherri’s return.
During the GMA interview, Bosenko acknowledged a post about Latinos on the now-defunct website Skinheadz.com, which was reportedly signed with Sherri’s maiden name, Sherri Graeff. According to the Sacramento Bee, the post recalled a woman growing up in Shasta Lake who got into altercations with Latinos who targeted her because she was “drug-free, white and proud of my blood and heritage.”
“We are familiar with that posting,” Bosenko told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “That is about 13 years old, and our investigators are looking into that as well.”
However, Sherri’s ex-husband, David Dreyfus, her sister, Sheila Koester, and husband Keith have all denied she wrote the post in question. “[The Papinis] are very private people and they do not post things on the internet,” Koester told the paper.
On Wednesday, November 30 Bosenko revealed during a press conference that Sherri described her two alleged captors in more detail during an interview with authorities that took place over two days.
According to Sherri, one of her female assailants had thin eyebrows, pierced ears and long curly hair, while the other woman was described as having thick eyebrows and straight black hair.
"The interviews were very intense, for both the investigators and for Sherri, with her having to relive this traumatic event. She was cooperative and courageous during the interviews," Bosenko said. [during a press conference on Wednesday.[ "Sherri did her best in providing the descriptions but was not able to provide a detailed description."
Following the new details of Sherri’s abductors, GMA released an extended clip from Keith's sit-down interview, which airs on 20/20 on Friday. Revealing more details about the case, he said that Sherri was screaming so much while trying to find help after being set free that she coughed up blood. "I thought about her being there, screaming my name," he told ABC's Matt Gutman.
He also recalled the relief he felt when he received a phone call from a California Highway Patrol officer notifying him that Sherri was safe, and then putting this wife on the phone. The exchange with his wife was "very emotional" and "super quick."
"I get on the phone and [said], ‘Oh, my God, honey.’ And of course she’s screaming," he told Gutman. "And [I said], ‘I love you, I love you, I love you, oh, my God, you’re here. You’re back. Where are you?’ And then the phone gets taken away from her… I’m panicked but I’m happy because at this point this is the first time I’ve heard her voice. I know she’s alive."
Hundreds of Redding, California-area residents celebrated Sherri's safe return to Shasta County with a welcome-home party on Saturday, December 3, more than a week after she was discovered alive following a three-week abduction. The Sacramento Bee reported that more than 200 members of the community gathered near Redding's Sundial Bridge to celebrate the 34-year-old mother of two's homecoming. The crowd included residents of all ages, from "families with children" to "dozens of people accompanied by dogs," according to the newspaper.
According to the New York Post, Sherri and her family skipped town and left their two dogs behind. A “buddy of Keith’s,” who was spotted at the Papinis’ home on Sunday, December 4, spoke to the newspaper and said that he was there to “walk the dogs.”
Pressed further about the family in the wake of Sherri’s homecoming, Keith’s pal told the outlet that he “couldn’t answer any questions.”
A neighbor said that they don’t think the Papini clan is “ever coming back here again.” According to the family friend, Keith had lived in the house on Sunset Dust Road since he was 5 years old. As to where the Papinis are now, another neighbor told the Post that “they’re way up north, in cold country” with “wealthy relatives” who have taken them in not long after Sherri was found alive 22 days after disappearing.
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