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California woman arrested and charged with faking her own ‘sensational’ kidnap

Sherri Papini was found bound, beaten and bruised on the side of a road 22 days after she was kidnapped


Sherri Papini

Sherri Papini

Sherri Papini

A California woman has been arrested and charged with faking her own “sensational” kidnapping.

Sherri Papini from California hit headlines around the world in 2016 when she was snatched while out on a run.

In a miraculous turn of events, she returned weeks later when she was found on the side of a rural road wearing restraints, bruised, beaten and almost 20 lbs lighter.

The 39-year-old vanished on November 2nd while out jogging near her home in Redding, California.

When her husband Keith Papini returned home from work she was not at home and using the Find My iPhone app tracked down her phone and earphones which were found almost a mile from her house.

For 22 days there was no trace of Papini until her captors let her go free in the early hours of November 24th, on the American holiday Thanksgiving.

She was found by a driver along a rural road near woodland.

Papini was bound by restraints, heavily bruised with a number of injuries including a branding on her right shoulder.

Her nose was broken and her hair was cut off, she also lost a significant amount of weight during her capture.

At the time of her examination in hospital, some of her injuries were healing, and some were fresh, giving the impression she suffered sustained injuries over the 22 days she was gone.

When questioned by Shasta County Sheriff, Tom Bosenko, she said that she had been held by two Hispanic women who kept their faces covered throughout the ordeal.

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An FBI sketch artist created a composite sketch of the suspects and circulated them among other law enforcement agencies.


An FBI sketch of the two women Papini described as her abductors

An FBI sketch of the two women Papini described as her abductors

An FBI sketch of the two women Papini described as her abductors

Almost immediately there was scepticism surrounding Sherri’s version of events as the mother only gave vague details about her abductors, where she was kept, and no clear motive for the kidnapping could be established.

When she was hospitalised following her ordeal, police found DNA belonging to a male and female in her underwear and on her sweatpants.

Neither DNA profiles belonged to the mother of two, or her husband Keith.

After police traced the male DNA profile it led to her ex-boyfriend who helped to crack the 5-year-old case.

On Thursday March 3rd she was arrested on charges of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer and engaging in mail fraud.

It has now emerged that she voluntarily spent 22 days with an ex-boyfriend in Costa Mesa.

According to authorities, the investigation has shown that during the time she was “kidnapped” she systematically harmed herself, roughly cut her own hair and refused to eat in a bid to make her story more convincing.

She even enlisted her unnamed ex-boyfriend to inflict some of her injuries.

Ay Papini’s request, he also picked her up and took her to his house on the day she vanished.


In the criminal complaint filed, Redding FBI agent Courtney Lantto said that Papini had been in contact with her ex-boyfriend for a year before she staged the kidnapping.

The pair used prepaid phones to communicate from as early as December 2015.

When police confronted her with evidence that her story was fabricated in 2020 she continued to make false statements about the women she said abducted her.

Between 2017 and 2021 she collected over $30,000 (€27,481) in payments from the California Victim’s Compensation Board.

Announcing her arrest on Thursday, authorities said: “When a young mother went missing in broad daylight, a community was filled with fear and concern.

“All the time and resources that could have been used to investigate actual crime, protect the community, and provide resources to victims were wasted based on the defendant’s conduct.”

Ultimately, they said, the investigation revealed that there was no kidnapping.

“The 22-day search for Sherri Papini and subsequent five-year search into who reportedly abducted her was not only taxing on public resources but caused the general public to be fearful of their own safety, a fear that they should not have had to endure.”

If convicted of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer she faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 (€229,012).

If convicted of mail fraud she faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 (€229,012).

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