It’s been five years since Sherri Papini shook the U.S. with an account of a harrowing kidnapping. Everyone was left with more questions than answers, and many disbelieved her story. This year she proved the doubters right when she admitted it was all a hoax.
The California resident pleaded guilty to one count of lying to a federal agent, and to one count of mail fraud in April 2022. Her husband Keith Papini filed for divorce on April 20, 2022, just days after Sherri entered her guilty plea. But April, who went missing and then appeared with injuries, didn’t stage this plot alone. She enlisted the help of a man who would do (almost) anything for her: an ex-boyfriend who later spilled everything to the authorities.
What was Sherri Papini’s kidnapping story?
In late 2016 Sherri’s husband Keith alerted the cops that his wife had gone missing while she was out jogging. She was found three weeks later emaciated and injured. She said two masked Hispanic women attacked and abducted her. She claimed she was tortured and chained up by them.
When she appeared in a parking lot 150 miles from her home in Redding, California on Thanksgiving Day, she had a chain with her and bruises and burns on her body. Sherri had lost weight, her hair was chopped off, and she had clamps on her wrists. She had a brand on her right shoulder. Police were unable to get any leads about what happened to Sherri based on the details she told them.
What did Sherri Papini’s ex-boyfriend do to help her?
Investigators were able to find out the truth about Sherri Papini in 2017 with a DNA test. They found male DNA on the underwear and sweatpants she had been wearing when she was found. They weren’t able to find out whose DNA it was until two years later.
In 2019, investigators used “familial DNA” to link the DNA to a male relative of Shari Papini’s ex-boyfriend. On June 9, 2019, police tested the DNA her ex that he left on a discarded bottle of Honest Honey Green Tea.
The boyfriend was confronted by police on August 10, 2019, and admitted that he had helped Sherri run away. They had talked over prepaid phones, and he picked her up and brought her to his house on the day she went missing.
In the three weeks she stayed with him, Papini starved herself, cut her hair, and injured herself to make her story look more believable. The boyfriend mostly stayed out of what Sherri was doing, but he did comply when she asked him to throw a hockey puck at her leg in an attempt to get bruising and branded her right shoulder with a wood-burning tool from Hobby Lobby.
He told investigators that at the time he had hopes that they would start dating again, and he wasn’t sure what her full intentions were during the bizarre visit. Around Thanksgiving Sherri told him that she missed her kids and asked him to drop her off closer to home.
What will happen to Sherri Papani now?
Sherri was arrested and charged with lying to the FBI and mail fraud on March 3, 2022. She’s been released on a $120,000 bail. She was charged with mail fraud because she received $30,000 she received from the California Victim Compensation Board. She allegedly spent this money on an ambulance ride, and therapy sessions, and used $1000 to buy blinds for her windows.
Sherri Papini has pleaded guilty so there will be no trial. Her sentencing is scheduled for July 11, 2022. While she faced 20 years in prison, prosecutors have recommended an eight-month sentence for Sherri.
Sherri’s husband is seeking full custody of their two children, ages 7 and 9. A hearing for their divorce is scheduled for May 9, 2022.
When people started questioning her story, her husband stood by her side defending her. It’s unknown how much her husband knew about Sherri’s deception, or when he found out. It’s also unclear exactly why Sherri staged such an elaborate prank. Although she did receive some money from the situation, it looks like the biggest thing she gained from it was a massive amount of media attention and concern for her wellbeing while she was missing.