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On an episode slated to air on Friday night at 9/8c, investigators dive into her “over-the-top theatrics” that tipped them off.
Earlier this month, Papini admitted that her 2016 kidnapping was an elaborate hoax. The 39-year-old California mother had made national headlines in 2016 when she claimed she had been kidnapped at gunpoint by two Hispanic women while out for a jog. The staged kidnapping was elaborate: When she was located three weeks after vanishing, she had a chain around her waist, had endured weight loss and had self-inflicted wounds on her body — now known to be self-inflicted.
Shasta County Sheriff Sergeant Kyle Wallace and Captain Brian Jackson have been on the case since 2016, and explained that Papini's story didn’t seem right to them from the get-go in their “Dateline” interviews.
For one, they said that a tuft of hair was found and her phone were found at the spot where she claimed she was abducted. She later told investigators that she had purposefully ripped the hair out of her head as her captors took her at gunpoint, so that her husband would be able to know where she was taken from.
"Yet when you look at just the hair alone — hindsight — it was theatrical and not really what fit what she said in her story," Wallace says on “Dateline.” "I think, ultimately, being able to look at each piece of evidence now with the clarity of what was going on, not just in the moment, but the drama or the theatrics that Sherri brought with every step of this investigation was really part of the undoing."
And while the married mom claimed two Hispanic women kidnapped her, the DNA found on her after she was located pointed only to her ex-boyfriend. They now know that she had been staying with him the whole time she had pretended to be missing. The ex, who believed that he was rescuing Papini from her abusive husband, also branded her and hit her to assist her with the kidnapping story.
"He truly is a nice person," Wallace said of the duped ex, who has not been charged.
"A lot of the lies that she told us had a lot of truth to it. So it’s really hard to decipher," Wallace says in the episode.
Papini has entered a plea agreement in the case, agreeing to plead guilty to two counts of mail fraud and lying to a law enforcement officer, NBC News reported earlier this month. She is scheduled to be sentenced on July 11. She has already been ordered to pay more than $300,000 in restitution to federal, state and local agencies for their efforts.
The mother has apologized for orchestrating the hoax in a statement released through her attorney, earlier this month.
“I am deeply ashamed of myself for my behavior and so sorry for the pain I’ve caused my family, my friends, all the good people who needlessly suffered because of my story and those who worked so hard to try to help me,” Papini said in the statement, obtained by The Sacramento Bee. “I will work the rest of my life to make amends for what I have done.”
Watch more on the case on "Dateline," Friday night at 9/8c on NBC.
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