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Sheriff Says Sherri Papini’s Alleged Kidnapping Hoax Was Result Of ‘Calculated Deception’ And ‘Narcissistic Behavior’
Sherri Papini faces federal charges after claiming she'd been kidnapped by two Hispanic women in 2016, a story authorities now believe she fabricated.
A California sheriff says Sherri Papini’s alleged kidnapping hoax was the result of “calculated deception” and “narcissistic behavior.”
Shasta County Sheriff Michael Johnson made the comments Monday on “Good Morning America”, just days after the Department of Justice announced that Papini had been arrested in connection with her 2016 disappearance.
Just weeks after Papini vanished while out on a jog on Nov. 2, 2016, she resurfaced approximately 150 miles away along a roadway with a harrowing story of being kidnapped and tortured by two Hispanic women.
But authorities now say that Papini “fabricated” the story and had really been staying with a former boyfriend in Costa Mesa, where she “harmed herself to support her false statements.”
“It is a case of calculated deception driven, I think, by her narcissistic behavior, and it really had an impact on this community and nationwide as far as that goes,” Johnson told “Good Morning America.”
Johnson said multiple law enforcement agencies had pulled together, devoting time, resources and money to try to help Papini and solve a “tragic” case, but have now discovered those resources were wasted.
Johnson said the efforts also diverted attention away from real victims.
“Human trafficking is a real thing and there are victims out there that need our help,” he said. “Investigations are complex and budgets are tight, so when we put all that effort into such a case and find out that things are not what they seem and we’ve been deceived and law enforcement has been duped, it’s really taxing on everybody.”
Papini’s contention that she was abducted by two masked Hispanic women also created anxiety among the Hispanic community, he said.
“You have a story of a typical American mom who was just abducted by what seemingly is a cartel-type of human trafficking operation, which is just not true,” Johnson said. “That disrupted a lot of things for a lot of people around here.”
Papini told investigators she was abducted while out on a jog near her Redding home on Nov. 2, 2016 after a dark-colored SUV pulled up beside her. She claimed a woman sitting in the passenger seat asked her for help, then threatened her with a “small revolver” and forced her into the car, according to an affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com.
She told investigators that the two Hispanic women in the SUV took her to a small room, where they tortured her for weeks by cutting off her hair, beating her, burning her arm and branding her. She said the women told her she was being sold to a cop, but one of the women later seemingly had a change of heart and set her free along a road in Yolo County.
However, in 2020, investigators were able to trace DNA found on clothes she was wearing at the time she resurfaced to one of her ex-boyfriends.
After he was confronted by investigators, the man allegedly admitted to helping Papini “run away” after she claimed she was trying to escape an abusive husband.
While the man went to work, he said Papini stayed home alone at his apartment. He told authorities she “chopped” off her hair herself, appeared to be trying to lose weight and inflicted many of the injuries herself. He admitted to branding her with a wood burning craft pen after she allegedly told him “the phrase that she wanted burned onto her skin,” according to the affidavit.
He told investigators that the pair, whose relationship had ended in 2006, “did not have sex while she stayed with him” but that he believed that they “might end up in a romantic relationship again,” according to the affidavit.
“Ex-boyfriend stated that he did not know how long Papini planned to be away from her family or ‘what the final plan was’ and whether that included them getting back together,” authorities wrote.
Just before Thanksgiving, he said she began to miss her children and asked him to take her home, instructing him to drop her along the roadway in Yolo County.
He said he never talked to Papini again but became “rattled” by his experience after seeing the national exposure the case received at the time.
“It did not occur to him that he could get in trouble until he started seeing the news stories regarding Papini’s disappearance and her allegations that she had been kidnapped,” the affidavit stated.
Papini is now facing charges of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer and engaging in mail fraud.
Authorities have alleged that after her return, Papini received more than $30,000 in 35 separate payments between 2017 and 2021 from the California Victim’s Compensation Board to pay for visits to her therapist and the ambulance that took her to the hospital in Yolo County.
She and her husband also allegedly used money from a GoFundMe account set up by her husband’s friend to “bring Sherri home safe” to pay off their personal credit cards.
Papini, who was arrested Thursday, is expected to appear in court on Tuesday for a detention hearing, CNN reports.
Papini is currently the only person who has been charged in connection with the alleged hoax, but Johnson said he’ll be watching to see if others could also be implicated.
"It's going to go to the grand jury," he told “Good Morning America.” "They'll dole out the indictments that they feel (are) appropriate but I certainly wouldn't be surprised because she didn't pull it off by herself and there's other people involved."