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Sherri Papini Admits She Faked 2016 Kidnapping: ‘I Am Deeply Ashamed Of Myself’
“I will work the rest of my life to make amends for what I have done,” Sherri Papini said in a statement released through her attorney after announcing she'd intend to plead guilty in the case against her.
Sherri Papini’s 2016 kidnapping was an elaborate hoax, the California mom has admitted.
Papini made national headlines in 2016 when she claimed she had been kidnapped at gunpoint by two Hispanic women while out for a jog near her Redding, California home—but now the 39-year-old has fessed up to it all being fake.
Papini entered a plea agreement Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for Eastern California, agreeing to plead guilty to two counts of mail fraud and lying to a law enforcement officer, NBC News reports.
Papini apologized for orchestrating the hoax in a statement released through her attorney, saying that she was “so sorry” for deceiving the public.
“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.”
One of the counts she faces carries a possible jail time of up to 20 years; the other could carry five, but prosecutors have said they will recommend a reduced sentence as part of the plea deal, according to NBC News.
Papini is also expected to agree to pay $300,000 in restitution to federal, state and local agencies who devoted resources to try to locate her and search for the fictional suspects.
Papini was arrested on March 3, more than five years after the kidnapping claim, after authorities said DNA evidence led them to believe that Papini had “fabricated” the abduction and had been staying with an ex-boyfriend in Southern California during her weeks-long disappearance, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.
“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,” Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson said at the time.
Papini disappeared on Nov 2, 2016 while out on a jog near her Redding home, launching a massive search effort to try to find her.
She resurfaced three weeks later along the side of the road in Yolo County, covered in bruises, wearing a chain and had a “brand” on her right shoulder, according to an affidavit previously obtained by Oxygen.com.
Papini initially told investigators that she had been abducted by two Hispanic women in a dark-colored SUV who had asked her for help and then forced her into the car at gunpoint. She claimed that in the weeks that followed she was held captive in a small closet, beaten and tortured by the women, who cut off her hair and branded her shoulder.
According to Papini, one of the women ultimately decided to set her free on Nov. 24, 2016 and let her off along Interstate 5, where she was discovered by the California Highway Patrol around 4:30 a.m. that morning.
For years, investigators searched for the mystery women until they recovered DNA evidence from the clothing that Papini had been wearing the day that she was found that was matched in 2020 to her ex-boyfriend.
The man allegedly admitted to authorities that he had helped Papini “run away” after she claimed she was trying to escape her allegedly abusive husband, according to the affidavit.
The man told investigators that he picked her up in a rental car at an agreed upon spot in Redding and drove her to his Costa Mesa home, where she stayed for weeks.
“Ex-Boyfriend told investigators that it might sound ‘bland,’ but they really just ‘talked,’ ‘hung out,’ and ‘ate food,’ but they did not go anywhere,” the affidavit said.
The man claimed that during her stay, Papini had inflicted most of the injuries herself, although he had helped brand her with a wood burning craft tool that she asked him to buy.
Her ex-boyfriend told investigators he didn’t know “what the final plan was” but that shortly before Thanksgiving, Papini asked him to take her back home because she missed her children, according to the affidavit.
When investigators initially confronted Papini with the new evidence they had discovered in 2020, she denied faking the kidnapping and continued to assert that she’d been taken by two Hispanic women.
William Portanova, Papini’s Sacramento defense attorney, told The Sacramento Bee that Papini now plans to admit to orchestrating the hoax.
“We’re taking this case in an entirely new direction,” he said. “Everything that has happened before today stops today.”