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Sherri had gone out for an afternoon jog and never returned, even though she was supposed to pick up her two children from school. Keith tried to find her by tracking her cell phone, but discovered the device abandoned on the side of the road, according to an ABC News report at the time. He firmly believed she had been abducted.
"Knowing that she didn’t pick up our kids — there is no way that ever happens. She could drop her phone, but she would never in a million years not pick up our children on a time that she normally would have," he said, according to the outlet. " Everybody who knows my wife knows that there’s no reason for her to leave. … She was definitely taken against her will.”
Sherri was ultimately found three weeks later on the side of a road about 150 miles away from where she had vanished, with a chain around her waist and visible injuries. She claimed that what Keith had feared was true: she had been abducted by two Hispanic women who held her captive and tortured and branded her, according to local newspaper Redding Searchlight.
"She screamed so much, she said she was coughing up blood from the screaming, trying to get someone to stop. Again, just another sign of how my wife is, she's so wonderful. She says maybe people aren't stopping because I have a chain, it looks like I broke out of prison, so she tried to tuck in her chain under the clothes," Keith told ABC's "20/20" in 2016 of being reunited with his wife.
But it wasn't the truth. Investigators would ultimately discover that Sherri had never been kidnapped, and had instead run off with an ex-boyfriend named James Reyes, who helped hide her after she alleged that Keith was abusive, reported The Washington Post in 2022. (Prosecutors noted during Sherri's trial no domestic violence reports were ever filed against her husband with the county sheriff’s office.)
Sherri pleaded guilty in April 2022 to one count of mail fraud and one count of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer, and was eventually sentenced to 18 months in prison.
The shocking kidnapping hoax is the center of the upcoming Oxygen special "Sherri Papini: Lies, Lies And More Lies," airing December 17 at 9/8c on Oxygen. But while Sherri has been sent to prison, what ended up happening with her husband, Keith, after her falsehoods were exposed?
When Keith was told the truth of the abduction by investigators, he was horrified.
"I'm the idiot husband that stayed around the whole time," he said at the time, according to an episode of ABC's "20/20." "Now you are telling me, 'OK, you can go home now.' Well, do you think I want her anywhere around my kids or around me at all at this point? ... I'm in shock."
The pair separated on March 3, 2022, the day Sherri was arrested, and he filed for divorce in April, according to PEOPLE, citing irreconcilable differences. He also asked for custody of the pair's two children.
"Now that I have learned the truth, as reflected in the plea arrangement agreement that she has made with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento, I must act decisively to protect my children from the trauma caused by their mother and bring stability and calm to their live,” the statement read, according to Redding Searchlight, adding that he wanted to protect his kids from "the negative impact of their mother's notoriety."
He further elaborated on the decision in a statement to PEOPLE at the time.
"I wish to make it clear that my goal is to provide a loving, safe, stable environment for [the pair's children] and I believe the requested orders are consistent with that goal and the best interests of the children. I do not want to say anything in the pleadings connected to this matter that would inflame the situation or attract media attention," Keith said.
Since then, Keith has largely kept out of the media spotlight and has focused on raising his kids in Mountain Gate, California.
Learn more about the case and watch the Oxygen special "Sherri Papini: Lies, Lies And More Lies," airing Saturday, December 17 at 9/8c on Oxygen.
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