Sherri Papini and her husband Keith spent the $49,000 raised on a GoFundMe page to ‘bring her home’ to pay off their personal credit cards and contribute to personal expenses, federal prosecutors claimed yesterday as Papini complained about not being able to eat jail food.
Papini, 39, was arrested on Thursday night on suspicion of staging her 2016 kidnapping. It was a case that gripped America – a healthy young mother vanishing after going out for a run near her suburban home in Redding, California.
She reappeared battered and bruised three weeks later and told police she had been kidnapped by two Hispanic women who ‘played annoying Mexican music’ during her captivity and fed her ‘tortillas’.
In 2020, investigators who stayed on the case found a familial DNA match to samples taken from Sherri’s clothes captivity clothes in 2016.
The DNA matched an ex-boyfriend who later told FBI agents that Sherri spent the entire time at his apartment in Southern California after convincing him to drive seven hours and pick her up to save her from her ‘abusive’ husband.
Sherri is now in the Sacramento County Jail, where her attorney says she cannot eat.
During a Zoom court appearance yesterday afternoon, attorney Michael Borges said Papini had only been able to eat an apple since she was taken into custody in front of her kids at her home on Thursday.
He said the mother – who weighs only 100lbs and is 5ft tall – has food allergies which prevent her from being able to eat anything else.
Sherri Papini, 39, with her husband Keith. She is in jail now, accused of lying to police and the public in 2016 by claiming she had been kidnapped by two Hispanic women when police say she was in fact with an ex-boyfriend
In 2016, the Papini family received more than $49,000 in donations from strangers who wanted to help them find the missing mom. After Sherri returned home, they used the funds to pay off personal credit cards and put it towards expenses, prosecutors claim
Sherri’s husband Keith (shown in 2017) used $8,000 of the GoFundMe money paying off his personal credit card, according to the indictment
‘She has allergies that affect her ability to eat the food that’s been provided to her in Sacramento County Jail… she had not been provided with any food other than a part of an apple … to eat. She has not been able to eat since she’s been detained yesterday morning,’ he told the court.
It wasn’t enough to convince the judge to let Sherri out.
She must stay in custody until a detention hearing on Tuesday. Her preliminary hearing has been scheduled for March 18.
She had not been provided with any food other than a part of an apple … to eat. She has not been able to eat since she’s been detained yesterday morning
Sherri’s attorney Michael Borges
Sherri’s husband Keith has not been arrested and it remains unclear if he is the subject of any kind of investigation.
In a 55-page affidavit released by the DOJ on Thursday, FBI agents reveal how he deposited the $49,000 raised by a GoFundMe page designed to help find Sherri into his bank account after she returned home on November 24, 2016.
He first wrote a check to himself for $31,000, then another for over $1,000. In total, Keith used around $8,000 of the money to pay off his personal credit cards.
Sherri used some $3,000 paying off her own credit card, and the pair used the rest of the GoFundMe money on ‘personal expenses’, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors also claim that Sherri – who is described as pathological liar and attention-seeker by ex-boyfriends and bosses – fraudulently claimed over $30,000 in payments from California’s Victim Compensation Board between 2017 and 2022.
She claimed 35 payments from the board and said the payments were for things like therapy and going to the doctor.
She also spent $1,000 on blinds for her home which she claimed back from the compensation board.
Papini’s inmate information from the Sacramento County Jail. Her attorneys say she has not eaten anything but an apple
Sherri is currently being held in the Sacramento County Jail where her attorneys say she cannot eat any of the food being offered to her because of allergies
Prosecutors have also charged Sherri with fraudulently claiming more than $30,000 from California’s Victim Compensation Board between 2017 and 2021
‘THEY PLAYED ANNOYING MEXICAN MUSIC AND FED ME TORTILLAS’: PAPINI’S ‘LIES’ ABOUT CAPTORS SHE CLAIMED WERE HISPANIC WOMEN
The 55-page arrest affidavit reveals some of what Papini told police about the ‘Hispanic women’ who kidnapped her.
Below are excerpts from that affidavit:
Papini claims that two Hispanic women driving an SUV abducted her but covered their faces. These sketches were released of them almost a year after she went missing
‘They would play music loudly. That really annoying Mexican music. And theywould watch TV . . . There was a fireplace, I could smell it. I could hear that sound, you know when you move the handle to open the fireplace. It made like a creaky sound . . . and it was cold. It was always cold. And it seemed like it rained almost every night.’
‘I heard birds. I never heard anything else ……. they put the stereo right outsidemy door and . . . played it super loud.’
‘Papini said her abductors fed her once a day, maybe rice or tortillas, and Sometimes apples’
‘Papini said the women put her in a closet with a bucket with kitty litter in it for her to use as a toilet. She described the closet as containing shelves and a metal pole to which the women hooked a cable and a chain to, with the other end of the chain hooked around her waist. There was enough length on it for Papini to reach the bed, but she could not reach the door. The chain was unmovable because it was bolted into the ceiling. Papini escribed how, when she did not listen to the women, they would lock her in the closet.
‘Papini stated that there were boards on the windows of the room she was kept in”
‘I tried to get out the first time and that’s when she branded me.’
Papini described how her abductors brought a table in, hit her back, and tied her to the table. When they branded Papini, her skin made “a sizzling popping sound” and it was very painful. Later in this same interview, Papini said her abductors told her that her buyer wanted Papini branded because’
Since her arrest on Thursday, Sherri has been slammed by the Shasta County cops who spent years investigating her ‘bogus’ claims, and by Latino advocates who say her characterization of her kidnappers is racist and a ‘slap in the face’ to the community.
‘As far as Sherri Papini goes, I have I have no sympathy for her. She made her own bed.
‘She created this whole situation, and now she has to answer for it,’ Shasta County Sheriff Michael L. Johnson told The Sun on Friday.
He admonished Sherri for stoking fear in the community, where people were scared to go out running for weeks because of what had happened.
‘Shasta County is a pretty tight-knit community and a safe community, so when Sherry reported this abduction – or should I say charade – it really caused a lot of anxiety,’ Johnson said.
‘People were afraid to go out for jogs or to be out in public alone. They thought we had abductors and sex traffickers lurking around here at a profound rate,’ he said.
Sherri is still sticking to her story. When police confronted her with their evidence in August 2020, she continued to insist that she had been kidnapped by two Hispanic women, and that her ex-boyfriend ‘couldn’t’ have been involved.
The ex-boyfriend has not been named. He told police how he and Sherri dated in 2006 and ‘loved’ each other. She randomly got in touch with him in 2016 again, he said, and told him that her husband was abusing her.
The pair then spoke on pre-paid cell phones, arranging for her to run away for months before November 2, when he collected her from Redding and the alleged hoax began.
The ex-boyfriend admitted to investigators that he thought their relationship would become romantic once they were back at his apartment in Costa Mesa, but that it never did.
Instead, Sherri took over his bedroom and he slept on the couch. She locked herself away in the room, starved herself and cut off her hair then started inflicting injuries on herself.
He told how she convinced him to brand her with a hot tool, then asked him to drive her seven hours north, back to her home in Redding, on November 24.
He was unaware of the media storm that had brewed over the three weeks because he did not have a TV, he said.
The ex-boyfriend has not been charged either.
He admitted that he feared he might be in trouble once he realized Sherri had lied throughout the month, but that he assumed police would come to him.
It remains unclear whether Keith Papini is standing by his wife.
Her parents issued a statement on Friday to say she had been ambushed a home and unfairly arrested in front of her two young children.
They also claimed investigators had tried to pit her and Keith against each other.
Keith has made no public statement since his wife’s arrest.
Sheriffs believe he was duped by his wife just as much as the public was.
‘I have zero sympathy for Sherri Papini. I do, however, have compassion for her husband, the kids and her other family members that were duped and unknowingly victimized by what she was doing.
‘So as far as the family goes, I can certainly appreciate it and my heart goes out to them,’ Sheriff Johnson said.
HOW SHERRI PAPINI ‘CONVINCED EX-BOYFRIEND TO SAVE HER FROM ‘ABUSIVE’ HUSBAND THEN LOCKED HERSELF AWAY IN HIS HOME, CUT HER HAIR AND INJURED HERSELF IN GONE-GIRL STYLE HOAX’
The story is reminiscent of the movie Gone Girl, where Rosamund Pike’s character Amy Dunne fakes her own disappearance and seeks solace in ex-boyfriend Desi Collings. She accuses on-screen husband Ben Affleck of abusing her in order to win Collings’ sympathy.
The affidavit that accompanies Papini’s arrest sheds more light on their plot.
‘Ex-boyfriend explained that Papini was ‘a good friend; and she had asked him for help. Papini told him that her husband was beating and raping her and she was trying to escape.
‘Papini told ex-Boyfriend that she had filed police reports, but the police were not doing anything to stop her husband’s abuse. Ex-Boyfriend said “she had something planned up” and he was trying to help her get away from husband and be a good friend.’
Papini told her ex-boyfriend to pick her up on November 2 from her home in Redding, California. She then sat in the backseat, lying down, while he drove seven hours south to Costa Mesa. For two weeks, they stayed in his apartment. She occupied the bedroom and he slept on the couch, according to prosecutors. He then drove her home
Papini never filed any domestic violence complaints against her husband, according to federal prosecutors.
In the months before her disappearance, she called the ex-boyfriend and told him she wanted to run away with him.
She claimed that she’d been saving money for it. He advised her to buy a prepaid phone for them to communicate with.
They planned for him to pick her up on November 2. He hired a car through a friend, drove from Southern California to Redding then waited to hear from her, the affidavit says.
The boyfriend went to Trader Joe’s to ‘buy some stuff’ and also went to Starbucks before Papini messaged him.
She told him to collect her on a road near her home. When she arrived, she was in athletic gear and sweaty.
She got into the car and immediately climbed into the backseat where she lay down and hid for the entire journey to Southern California, according to the affidavit.
For the next two weeks, they lived in his apartment in Costa Mesa. There was no TV, so he did not see the news reports about her disappearance, but he became suspicious when she started injuring herself.
Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne and Neil Patrick Harris as Desi Collings in Gone Girl. Pike’s character pretends her husband (Ben Affleck) is abusive towards her and she confides in Collings, her ex-boyfriend, after going on the run
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne in Gone Girl, Amy’s unwitting husband. Right, Sherri Papini and her husband Keith on their wedding day
She spent most of her days locked away in his bedroom after claiming it while he was forced to sleep on the couch, the man said.
She cut her hair, burned herself, and asked him to shoot her with a pellet gun to inflict a small bruise on her leg.
Papini – who he said was ‘already tiny’ – starved herself while she was living with him, eating only ‘small portions’.
In the days before Thanksgiving, she told him she was ready to go home to her kids. Before they left, she convinced him to burn a ‘phrase’ into her skin with a heated tool.
He then drove her seven hours north, back to Shasta County, and dropped her off on the side of the road. She hid in the backseat again for that journey.
She brought with her a bag that contained hand ties which she wrapped around herself in the car to make it look as if she had been bound.
Sherri Papini with her husband Keith. Her ex-boyfriend told police she convinced him that Keith was abusing her and that she wanted help to get away from him so convinced the ex-boyfriend to pick her up
After he dropped her off, the ex-boyfriend drove himself back to San Pedro, had Thanksgiving Dinner at his aunt’s house and then returned his rental car the next day.
It was only when he saw the intense media coverage of Papini returning home that he started to panic, he said.
He said he never came forward because he thought that police would approach him if he had done something wrong, so he stayed quiet.
In August 2020, police confronted Papini with the evidence but she continued to deny it and say there is ‘no way’ it could have been the ex-boyfriend.
She admitted speaking with him over text, as she did with other men, but said it was merely a mistake and nothing criminal.
‘When I went out of town for work. I talked with other guys ……… I made a mistake and I talked to other men and I shouldn’t have,’ she said.
In the five years since she allegedly faked the disappearance, Papini claimed $30,000 from the Victim Compensation Board.
On November 2, Papini’s husband Keith reported her missing at 5.50pm after returning home from work. She was nowhere to be found and their two children were still at daycare.
Keith then used the ‘Find My iPhone’ app to locate Sherri’s phone, that was sitting on the side of the road near their home next to her earbuds, which were tangled in blonde hair.
He told authorities he thought it looked as though the phone had been ‘placed’ there and that it was positioned strangely.
Keith said the pair argued like any other married couple but had no serious marital issues. He said their last argument was the previous month and was over a messy room, and that Papini could be ‘loud’.
Police started searching her phone and quickly discovered two men’s phone numbers that were saved under women’s names, the affidavit claims.
PAPINI’S PARENTS STATEMENT
‘We love Sherri and are appalled by the way in which law enforcement ambushed her this afternoon in a dramatic and unnecessary manner in front of her children. If requested, Sherri would have fully complied and come to the police station, as she has done multiple times before, where this could have been handled in a more appropriate way.
‘Sherri and Keith have cooperated with law enforcement’s requests despite repeated attempts to unnecessarily pit them against each other, empty threats to publicly embarrass them and other conduct that was less than professional.
‘We are confused by several aspects of the charges and hope to get clarification in the coming days.’
Neither was the ex-boyfriend she spent her ‘missing’ weeks with, but authorities interviewed them and one of her old bosses.
The day before she went missing, Papini texted one of the men and discussed meeting up in Redding, California, near her home.
That man lived in Michigan and had been in California for a work trip. He told police he’d met Papini in 2011 on a work trip and that the pair ‘spent the weekend together’.
They continued to exchange flirtatious messages for years, he said, but he did not end up meeting the weekend he was in California, before she disappeared.
The second man told police that he met Papini in 2000-2001 through a a Friday Night Live youth program. He said she was a liar who liked attention and would ‘tell stories’ to get it.
He said she once told him she was the victim of abuse in her family.
‘Man 2 described Papini as an attention-hungry person who told stories to try to get people’s attention. Man 2 stated that Papini fabricated stories of being the victim of abuse from her family, father, and then Man 2 after the couple broke up,’ the affidavit reads.
Investigators also spoke with Papini’s boss at the Friday Night Live youth program, and he said he worried about having her in the program because she ‘was good at creating different realities for people so that they would see what she wanted them to see, which got her really good attention.’
Papini was married once before she met Keith.
Her first husband was in the military. Keith told police that their entire marriage was a sham designed to get her onto his medical insurance so that she could receive treatment for a persistent heart murmur.
When police spoke to the first husband, he said she told him she needed the insurance due to ‘complications from regular egg donations’.
Papini’s mother said she’d told her she ‘traveled the world’ with her first husband when in reality, they had only traveled together once.
The ex-husband told police that after they divorced, he was told by mutual friends that she had a history of lying.
The hoax was unraveled by the DNA match to the ex-boyfriend’s father.
Local investigators in California asked the DOJ to run a familial search of the DNA they had collected from Papini’s clothing in 2016. It was found on her underwear, sweatshirt and pants, and belonged to a man – even though she had told investigators she had been kidnapped by two women.
The search pinged a partial match for the ex-boyfriend’s father.
It remains unclear if his DNA was on file because it was in the criminal database, or if he had submitted to an at-home DNA test.
Authorities then staked out the ex-boyfriend’s home. They collected a bottle of Honest Honey Green Tea in June 2020,
She faces a mail fraud charge related to the reimbursement requests that carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, while lying to a federal officer has a maximum five-year sentence.
‘Everyone involved in this investigation had one common goal: to find the truth about what happened on Nov. 2, 2016, with Sherri Papini and who was responsible,’ said Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson.
‘That 22-day search and five-year investigation not only cost money and time, he said, ‘but caused the general public to be fearful of their own safety, a fear that they should not have had to endure.’