The Sherri Papini case has taken another strange turn, with investigators now drawing comparisons between the abduction of the California mom and another unsolved disappearance from 1998 — a former acquaintance of Papini who bore a striking resemblance.
Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko has compared Papini’s disappearance with Tera Smith, a woman who disappeared at 16. Both were jogging in the city of Redland when they disappeared, Bosenko noted.
“It was on the investigators’ minds. In fact, there is a resemblance of Tera Smith and Mrs. Papini, which made it maybe even a little bit more eerie,” Bosenko told ABC News.
The similarities between Sherri Papini and Tera Smith run deeper still, the report noted. Both women have blonde hair and blue eyes and even ran in the same circles throughout their school years.
Nearly 20 years before Sherri Papini was abducted, classmate Tera Smith vanished in the same California community. https://t.co/WsigkblOwP— Globalnews.ca (@globalnews) December 7, 2016
As ABC News noted, the two were acquaintances dating back to middle school.
“The two women were also high school classmates in the 1990s and even further back, when Papini was in fifth grade, she auditioned for the same role as Tera’s sister in a school play.
“Unlike the Papini case, in which Sherri was released three weeks after her abduction, the Smith family never saw Tera again.”
Sherri Papini was able to escape her abductors 22 days after she went missing. She was found on Thanksgiving Day, with a bag over her head and a chain around her waist. In an interview with 20/20, her husband said that Sherri was chained inside a vehicle, and her captors cut the restraint and pushed her out.
Not knowing where she was at the time, Sherri screamed until someone came to her aid, her husband recounted.
“She screamed so much, she said she’s coughing up blood from the screaming, trying to get somebody to stop,” Keith Papini told 20/20. “And again, just another sign of how my wife is, she’s so wonderful, how she’s like, ‘Well, 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 her clothes.”
As he shared details of the brutal abduction, Keith Papini has also fended off accusations that his wife’s disappearance was a hoax. He released a statement saying they are a private family, not using social media even before Sherri’s abduction, and that he does not “see a purpose in addressing each preposterous lie.” Authorities have also said they have no reason to believe Sherri’s abduction was a hoax.
While Sherri Papini was able to escape her abductors, there was no such conclusion for Tera Smith. The 16-year-old was never seen again after disappearing in 1998, though family members say they are sure she was a victim of foul play.
“We’ve known since the very first night,” her father, Terry Smith, told ABC News.
Tera’s father added that he believes a local man is responsible for Tera’s disappearance, but police have never named a suspect due to lack of evidence.
Keith Papini even reached out to the Smith family shortly after his wife went missing, though at the time Terry Smith said he didn’t have much hope to offer.
“I felt bad because Keith had so much hope and so much confidence that she’d be found,” Terry Smith told the Daily Mail. “I didn’t have a lot of comfort to offer him. How do you tell somebody a few days after their wife’s gone missing that she’s probably gone for good?”
And despite the strange similarities between both women and their disappearances, police said there is no official link between Sherri Papini and Tera Smith at this time.
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