Hundreds of Redding, California-area residents celebrated Sherri Papini‘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.
“This community is getting together to just wish this family well and welcome Sherri back,” Redding health club owner Brady Frost said at the Redding Civic Auditorium, per the Sacramento Bee.
At one point, the partygoers (many of whom donned pink attire in honor of Papini’s favorite color) congregated to pose for a photo taken by a drone that flew overhead. The picture would later be presented to Papini, who did not appear to attend the gathering.
“We never lost hope,” Redding mayor Missy McArthur told the crowd. “We kept working and we made it happen. So, we’re so proud of this community.”
Papini was reported missing on November 2 after she was abducted while out for a run. She was found alive but chained and battered, after she flagged down a motorist on the side of the road in Yolo County on Thanksgiving morning. According to Sherri’s husband, Keith Papini, she was discovered bruised and branded, her hair was cut and she weighed only 87 pounds. Authorities are searching for two armed Hispanic women driving a dark-colored SUV.
In the days after Papini’s safe return, many people speculated that the ordeal sounded like a hoax and questioned the legitimacy of the details. Shasta County sheriff Tom Bosenko told ABC News last week that authorities “have no reason to disbelieve” Papini’s story. Keith also denounced the hoax rumors during a December 2 interview on 20/20.
“It’s sick,” family friend Lisa Jeter told the Sacramento Bee of the allegations. “I mean, she’s the sweetest, most warmhearted person you would ever meet, and for people to be that negative, that cruel, is disheartening and very, very sad.”
Jeter, who said she spoke with Sherri on the phone after her return, added, “She’s very grateful. Between tears and speaking, it was just the word ‘grateful.’ She’s just very grateful to be home.”
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