The dark side of the region where kidnapped “Super Mom” Sherri Papini was kidnapped while out jogging has come to national attention.
The area comprised of Mendocino County, Humboldt County, and Trinity County in Northern California is known as “The Emerald Triangle” - three sparsely populated counties that are notorious for marijuana cultivation.
They have become a hotbed for sex trafficking and drug cartels.
Many flock to the area for well-paying jobs by processing marijuana but the farms are remote and cell service is limited and many go missing.
In 2015, Humboldt County reported a disturbing 352 missing people.
Private investigator Bill Garcia, who took part in the search for Sherri Papini, told Inside Edition: “The cartels are working in that area. They have been in that area for some time and that whole surrounding area where young women are kidnapped regularly.”
A 20/20 special airing Friday night features an interview with Keith Papini, Sherri’s distraught husband.
ABC's Matt Gutman conducted the interview and says the family is in hiding.
“We interviewed Keith at an undisclosed location; security remains a concern to him. The people who did this to Sherri, police believe they’re still out there,” he told Inside Edition.
Gutman is one of the few people who have seen photos of Sherri in the wake of her release.
“I wouldn’t say she is disfigured but she was battered almost to the point of unrecognizable,” he said.
The 34-year-old mom of two was also branded by her kidnappers, another sign that she may have been the victim of a sex trafficking ring.
“Nobody really knows why Sherri was released. This is not the type of person they want to hold. They may have thought she was a teenager out for a jog and not a mom of two. Not someone who would get so much of the community behind her,” he said.