California Mom Sherri Papini Accused of Faking Violent Kidnapping While Jogging in 2016: Prosecutors

Three weeks after she was reported missing, Sherri Papini was found wandering far away from home. She said she had been violently abducted and branded against her will. A new criminal complaint alleges Papini was with an ex-boyfriend the whole time.

Five years after a California mom claimed she was kidnapped while jogging and held captive for three weeks, authorities say the entire story was “fabricated.”

In 2016, Sherri Papini was reported missing by her husband, Keith. He spoke to the media, pleading for her safe return, and offered a $50,000 reward. 

Twenty-two days later, on Thanksgiving Day, Sherri Papini was found wandering — bruised, dazed and branded. She claimed she’d been kidnapped at gunpoint by two Hispanic women while jogging.

But now cops say Papini faked the kidnapping and had actually arranged for an ex-boyfriend to pick her up while jogging, before driving her 600 miles to his home in Costa Mesa.

During the entire time the nation was looking for her, “Papini never left [the] ex-boyfriend’s residence,” the criminal complaint says.

According to authorities, the ex-boyfriend says Sherri Papini actually asked him to brand her. He says he drove to a Hobby Lobby store and bought a wood-burning tool normally used to burn patterns into wood, according to the complaint. Then, he allegedly drove back to Sherri, heated the tool and branded her on her right shoulder with what is believed to be the word "exodus."

To build up the evidence that she had been kidnapped and tortured, Papini allegedly "purposefully hit her head on the bathtub and the bathroom floor," according to the complaint.

After three weeks, Papini allegedly told the ex she missed her children and said, “I’m ready to go.” He drove for seven hours and dropped her off at a country road 150 miles from home. The boyfriend has not been charged.

The woman who found Papini on the side of the road and called 911 tells Inside Edition she feels “betrayed.”

“If it’s true, I’m angry, because she used resources that someone who is truly a victim isn’t going to be able to access,” she said.

Private investigator Cody Salfan, who took part in the search for Papini, says she betrayed so many people.

“I feel for her family. I’m sure that Keith, her husband, I’m sure that there is a huge sense of betrayal,” Salfan said. 

A joint family statement issued Friday suggests Sherri and Keith Papini are still together.

“Sherri and Keith have cooperated with law enforcement’s requests despite repeated attempts to unnecessarily pit them against each other,” the statement said.

The statement accused police of “ambushing” Sherri “in a dramatic and unnecessary manner in front of her children.”

The family claims Papini would have come to the police station voluntarily if she had been asked. 

Related Stories