The Psychotic Story of Sherri Papini


Jaden Jewett, A&E Editor

On November 2, 2016, 36-year-old, Sherri Papini, was out for a jog in Redding, California, a mile from her home when she disappeared. Her disappearance led to a 3-week-long mass search in 3 different states, and donations towards the search effort reached an astounding $49,000. 3 weeks later, however, she reappeared 150 miles away from where she disappeared on the side of County Road 17 at 4:30 am, having been reportedly “freed by her captors” while still wearing restraints. In interviews, Panini claimed that she was held captive by two Hispanic women who kept their faces hidden from her and stated she was chained in a closet and “branded” on her shoulder with a hot tool by her captors. Her husband at the time, Keith Papini, stated: “Sherri was physically abused during her captivity, had her nose broken, and her hair cut off, and weighed 87 pounds when she was released.”

Fast forward to March 3, 2022…Sherri Papini was arrested for charges of “making false statements to federal law enforcement officers and for mail fraud” after denying the accusations for years. Investigators found Panini guilty of entirely making up her story of getting kidnapped and had reportedly been living with her ex-boyfriend at the time while officers were looking for her. She also had self-inflicted cuts and bruises on her when she was found to further attempt to make her story more believable. She had reportedly asked her ex-boyfriend to burn her with a wood-burning tool to play into her elaborate ruse to make people believe her story. 5 days after she was arrested, Sherri was released from jail, days before her trial on a $120,000 bond as well as the surrendering of her passport. On top of the $120,000 for her bail, she was also required to pay over $300,000 in restitution.

On September 17th, Panini was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and 36 months of probation after pleading guilty to faking her own kidnapping in April 2022 as a part of a plea deal. She told the judge, “What was done cannot be undone. It can never be erased. I am not choosing to stay frozen like I was in 2016. I am choosing to commit to healing the parts of myself that were so very broken.” Investigators were able to disprove her false kidnapping claims by using new DNA recognition technology known as genetic genealogy on a piece of clothing Sherri was wearing at the time of the investigation. The DNA was connected to her ex-boyfriend and he plead guilty to helping Papini “run away” from an alleged abusive relationship with her husband Keith. Sherri Papini not only lied to authorities in an attempt to get away with faking her kidnapping, but she also abandoned her husband and 2 children, leaving them without a mother.  Her husband has since divorced her.