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Former Husband of Convicted Hoaxer Sherri Papini Speaks Out: "I Was Wrong"

In a recent interview, single father of two Keith Papini reflected on his ex-wife's "history of exaggerating."

By Jax Miller

The former husband of the California mother who made headlines in 2016 by faking her own kidnapping and torture is looking back at what he says was a marriage full of lies.

Keith Papini was candid about his marriage to Sherri Papini when speaking with People.com, admitting he didn’t question “a lot of things” during the couple’s years-long marriage. It was a major change of heart for Keith, who firmly stood by his wife’s side and filed for divorce only after the defendant admitted to her crimes in court in the spring of 2022.

Keith said he now raises the former couple’s children, 9-year-old daughter, Violet, and 11-year-old son, Tyler, as a single father.

“At the end of the day, you feel like if you can trust anyone, it’s your partner in life,” he told People.com. “But I was wrong.”

The June 22, 2024, interview corresponds with the new Hulu series Perfect Wife: The Mysterious Disappearance of Sherri Papini, which recounts the shocking case years after.

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On November 2, 2016, the then-34-year-old mother was purportedly abducted while on an afternoon jog near her Redding, California, home. Following massive search efforts, she resurfaced about three weeks later on the side of a Yolo County road — about 150 miles from home — covered in bruises, wrapped in a chain, and wearing a brand burned onto her shoulder.

The high-profile kidnapping —  later determined to be nothing short of an elaborate and costly hoax — became the subject of the original true crime special, Sherri Papini: Lies, Lies and More Lies, now available to watch on Oxygen and Peacock.

Keith Papini discusses wife’s alleged lies

A police handout of Sherri Papini

Keith said he and Sherri met in grade school, reporting they shared their first kiss in the seventh and eighth grade, respectively, according to People.com. Flash forward to 2009, after Sherri moved away and returned, the couple eventually married and had Violet and Tyler.

Looking back, Keith said he could see his former wife’s “history of exaggerating.”

“And, I would say, at this point, lying,” he said.

He credited having “lovely” parents for being so trusting, claiming he wasn’t raised to know “a dishonest person to that extent” before meeting Sherri. Therefore, he never questioned Sherri’s claims that she attended an Orange County college or studied ballet — things Keith told People.com were allegedly untrue.

RELATED: California Woman Sherri Papini "Failed" to Pay Restitution in Kidnapping Hoax

“She told me she used to sell cars at a dealership and all these different things, and I wasn’t going to go calling around to verify that those were real,” he said. “But there were definitely times where I’m like, ‘Hey, the timeline doesn’t match up. Like, you said you did this, or you lived at that spot, but this doesn’t make sense to me because the timeline’s not right.’”

Keith said she had a way of “skirting around” any confrontation and that he “just kind of went along with it.”

Did Sherri Papini confess to staging her own kidnapping?

In April 2022, Sherri pleaded guilty to mail fraud and making false statements, claiming she was “deeply ashamed” of fabricating the whole ordeal. Keith — who filed for divorce and custody of the children just three days Sherri after confessed as part of her plea deal — once believed Sherri “was definitely taken against her will.”

He said he was “in shock” after learning the truth, which landed Sherri in prison to serve less than a year of her 18-month sentence.

She was released in August 2023.

“Even if she were to come out someday and do a book or magazine, I can assure you that whatever is in there is going to be what she thinks she should say to get whatever goal she’s after,” Keith told People.com. “But it will not be the truth.”

When Sherri was recovered on the side of the Yolo County road in 2016, she lied to authorities, claiming two Hispanic women abducted her. In 2020, after Sherri fraudulently collected tens of thousands of dollars in light of the purported kidnapping, D.N.A. connected her to ex-boyfriend James Reyes, with whom she stayed in Costa Mesa as searches continued.

The injuries, Sherri admitted years later, were self-inflicted.

Keith Papini claims Sherri Papini gaslighted him

Sherri’s lies allegedly dated back long before she staged her own kidnapping, Keith said in the interview. The husband said he grew used to “making excuses for her,” and looking back, she would, in turn, use those excuses to “exploit” him.

“If something wasn’t adding up, she would be quick to move it to where, ‘Well, it’s because of this and my childhood, and you didn’t experience that [because] you had loving parents,’” Keith said. “She would almost twist it in a way. Now looking back, that I can see. But in the moment, it’s more like, ‘Oh, I’m, sorry. Let me give you a hug,’ and you kind of move on.”

Keith has publicly addressed being conned by his wife following her sentence, referring himself to being "the idiot husband who stayed around the whole time."

To learn more about the case, check out Sherri Papini: Lies, Lies and More Lies on Oxygen and Peacock.