Sherri Papini went missing from near her Redding, California, home on November 2 and was found alive just over three weeks later. Exact events surrounding Sherri’s abduction have remained a mystery, even though authorities say the 34-year-old Northern California mother of two had been found bound, bruised, and burned, with her nose broken. Sherri Papini allegedly wants her privacy and hasn’t spoken publicly about her abduction since she was found on Thanksgiving morning, but authorities are now saying they might have a new motive that explains why an adult woman would be kidnapped from alongside the road.
Investigators are saying it’s unusual for an adult to be abducted. NBC affiliate KOBI, out of Medford, Oregon, reports that a statement made by Sherri Papini’s husband, Keith Papini, regarding his wife’s condition following her abduction led one human trafficking expert, Rebecca Bender, to believe that Sherri Papini may have been kidnapped for sex trafficking purposes. Although Sherri Papini doesn’t necessarily fit the description of a typical victim of human trafficking, police are now looking into that possibility as a motive behind Sherri’s unusual kidnapping case.
Keith Papini made a public statement shortly after his wife was found by a passing motorist near Interstate 5 and Yolo County Road 17 in northern Yolo County, California, around 4:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Sherri Papini had allegedly been “thrown out of a car” near that location by her unknown female abductors, three weeks after they had taken her from alongside the road in Redding, California, as the mom was going on a “routine jog.” According to Keith Papini, Sherri had been found about 150 miles south of where she was originally abducted and had been left in a condition that shocked him — emaciated, at 87 pounds, with her once long, blonde hair chopped off.
“My first sight was my wife in a hospital bed. Her face covered in bruises ranging from yellow to black because of her repeated beatings. The bridge of her nose broken. She has been branded and I could feel the rise of her scabs under my fingers.”
Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko has said that Keith Papini wasn’t supposed to publicly comment on the physical condition of his wife, Sherri, who’s managed to give investigators details about her captors through several private and “emotional” interviews. Bosenko went on to say in an article, published on the Sacramento Bee, that the Sherri Papini kidnapping case is still an ongoing investigation and that not a lot of details will be disclosed. However, Sheriff Bosenko was forthcoming in letting the public know that Sherri was abducted by two armed Hispanic female adults who mainly spoke Spanish and kept their faces concealed. They also kept Sherri’s head covered, preventing an exact identification.
“Suspect No. 1 was the younger of the two suspects. She had long, curly hair. She had a thick accent. She had pierced ears. She had thin eyebrows. Suspect No. 2 was the older of the two suspects. She had straight black hair with some graying color. She had thick eyebrows.”
Bosenko did confirm Keith’s statement that Sherri Papini had suffered injuries and burns during her three weeks in captivity, saying that the suspects did brand her. According to a new article published by Today, an exact motive for Sherri Papini’s kidnapping is still not known, however, authorities are looking into the possibility that the “hands-on” stay-at-home mom of two young children may have been taken for sex-trafficking purposes. The possible connection between sex trafficking and Sherri Papini was made because of how her captors had branded her — “a way the owners know the victim belongs to them, similar to the way a farmer brands its cattle,” according to Rebecca Bender.
CW affiliate KTLA, out of Los Angeles, California, reports that a message, not a symbol, had actually been burned into Sherri Papini’s skin, and that her hair had been cut off possibly to change her physical appearance, according to Sheriff Bosenko. However, Rebecca Bender says that Sherri Papini doesn’t really fit into the typical description of a sex trafficking victim, saying that Sherri would be in that “less than 10 percent” chance of being kidnapped for human trafficking, mainly because most sex trafficking victims are exploited children who have met and trust their abductor. Bender goes on to explain that most women abducted for sex trafficking are between the ages of 18 to 24, with no close family or friends.
Sherri Papini allegedly doesn’t fit into the usual sex trafficking abductor’s method of operation, especially since she was abducted close to her home, doesn’t know her captors, and is 34-years-old.
Keith Papini reported Sherri missing on November 2 after she never returned from a jog in the Shasta County, Mountain Gate community located in Redding, California. Keith says he came home from work that day to his wife gone and their two children still at daycare. Authorities found a cellphone and headphones belonging to Sherri Papini, about a mile from where the couple lives. The disappearance of Sherri Papini became national news due to the unusual nature of the case.
Police are also looking into the possibility that the kidnapping and torture of Sherri Papini may have been a hate crime that stemmed from an online post that was allegedly written and signed by Sherri Papini in her maiden name, Graeff, where she talks about growing up in Shasta Lake where she got into fights with Latinos who targeted her because she was “drug-free, white, and proud of my blood and heritage.” That 2003 blog post can be read here and was originally published on the website Skinheadz.com, which is now defunct, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Keith Papini is calling the rumor of a “race war” a “malicious prank,” saying that Sherri Papini is not racist. However, since the blog post was written over 10 years ago and does include Sherri Papini’s maiden name, the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department is still investigating Sherri’s disappearance as a possible hate crime, along with the new possible motive of sex trafficking. Meanwhile, according to the International Business Times, Keith and Sherri Papini allegedly stand to gain several hundred thousand dollars from an anonymous donor, who originally offered up the money as ransom to the kidnappers for the safe return of Sherri. The donor would now like to use the money to help Sherri Papini and her family recover from the 22 days she was held in captivity.
A full exclusive interview with Keith Papini will air on ABC’s newsmagazine series, 20/20, Friday, December 2, at 10 p.m. EST, according to ABC News.
[Featured Image by Dima Aslanian/Shutterstock]