‘Shameful’ Sherri Papini pleads guilty to fake kidnapping

Five years after claiming she was kidnapped and abused, a California woman has admitted in court that she faked the whole thing.

Sherri Papini, 39, disappeared for three weeks in November 2016, prompting law enforcement to conduct a nationwide search for the missing married mother of two. Twenty-two days later, Papini reappeared seriously injured and claimed to have been abducted by two Hispanic women. In court on Monday, Papini formally pleaded guilty and admitted it was all a lie.

While “disappeared”, Papini was actually staying with an unnamed ex-boyfriend, according to court documents. The indictment claims she began communicating with the ex-boyfriend about a year before the kidnapping was staged, using prepaid phones to conceal her plans to run away.

On Thanksgiving Day 2016, Papini’s ex-boyfriend dropped her off along a highway in Yolo County, Calif., about 150 miles from her home. Court documents say multiple drivers made 911 calls about a disheveled woman on the freeway.

Five years after claiming she was kidnapped and abused, California’s Sherri Papini has admitted in court to fabricating the whole event. Above, Papini speaks to reporters outside a courthouse in Sacramento, California on April 13, 2022.
Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

Authorities found her with a chain around her waist to which one arm was tied, with additional ties on the other wrist and both ankles. After being taken to hospital, it was reported that Papini “lost a lot of weight and her long blonde hair was cut much shorter,” according to the indictment.

Court documents also note that her nose was swollen and that she had bruises, ligature marks and burns on her body. Papini claimed that two Hispanic women abducted and beat her, although one of the women brought her back.

Papini’s ex-boyfriend told investigators she was injured.

“The ex-boyfriend explained that PAPINI created the injuries by staying with him, including hitting himself to create bruises and burning his arms. The ex-boyfriend said he helped her to create some of the injuries, although he never laid his hands directly on her,” the court documents state.

Prosecutors say the fake kidnapping was not impulsive and that she planned it. Papini is ordered to pay more than $30,000 in psychiatric treatment for which she billed a state victim compensation fund and which is now part of her restitution. Along with compensation for the victim, she must also repay nearly $128,000 in disability benefits, according to The Associated Press.

“I am deeply ashamed of myself for my behavior and so sorry for the pain I have caused my family, my friends, all the good people who have suffered unnecessarily because of my story and those who have worked so hard to trying to help me,” Papini said in a statement released by his attorney, William Portanova, as reported earlier by Newsweek. “I will work the rest of my life to fix what I have done.”

Papini faces up to 25 years in prison or additional fines of up to $250,000. She is due to be sentenced on July 11.

Newsweek contacted Papini’s attorney for comment.


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