Investigators say they have no reason to doubt Sherri Papini’s story that she was abducted by two women who held her captive and badly abused her for three weeks.
“All the information that we have right now we have no reason to believe that she is making this up,” said Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko in an interview Wednesday with The Sacramento Bee.
Bosenko said detectives have a clearer picture of events after conducting two lengthy interviews Monday and Tuesday with the 34-year-old Mountain Gate woman who disappeared while on a jog on Nov. 2.
“Two women, armed … they did abduct her and held her captive for roughly three weeks,” Bosenko said. “Then one of them released her, obviously, on Thanksgiving.”
Bosenko said Papini did not know the two women, and it’s not yet clear why they took her.
“We do not know if it’s related to sex trafficking or the reason for her abduction, or was she specifically targeted or if this was a random abduction,” he said. Investigators are searching for two Hispanic women.
On Tuesday, Sherri Papini’s husband, Keith Papini, released a statement to ABC’s “Good Morning America” saying that while held captive, nose was broken and she was starved. He said she was covered in scabs and bruises, a brand was seared into skin and her long, blond hair was “chopped off.”
Bosenko on Wednesday wouldn’t go into detail about what the brand looked like, but he said it wasn’t a symbol.
“Was it torture? Was it sending a message? Was it part of control? Some type of punishment? We don’t have that information as to why,” Bosenko told The Bee.
According to her husband, Sherri Papini’s captors threw her from a vehicle on a darkened Yolo County highway, wearing a bag over her head and restrained by chains on her wrists and waist.
Before Papini was found, investigators said they had spoken with her friends and acquaintances, as well as “people Sherri has had past relationships with” in their efforts to find her. Investigators said they went out of state tracking leads. Detectives have submitted close to 20 search warrants – some of which are sealed – and said they’re examining cellphone records, bank accounts, email and social media profiles.
Investigators have declined to discuss what prompted them to file the search warrants or why detectives have traveled out of state. Bosenko said Wednesday that detectives traveled to Michigan as part of their investigation when she was still missing, but he said that so far none of those earlier leads appear linked to her abduction.
“We haven’t found any relevance relating to her abduction into things from her past or the search of electronic data,” Bosenko said. “We haven’t found anything at this point.”
Keith Papini said Tuesday he was releasing his statement in an effort to put rumors to rest, following rampant online speculation about the events, including whether the abduction could be a hoax.
On Wednesday, Bosenko addressed a widely circulated online post on a now-defunct website called Skinheadz.com that allegedly was signed by a “Sherri Graeff” – Papini’s maiden name.
In the post, the writer said that while growing up in Shasta Lake, she got into two fights with Latinos who targeted her because she was “drug-free, white and proud of my blood and heritage.”
Bosenko said it’s not clear if Papini wrote the post, but he said the fights the author described weren’t noted in any sheriff’s office records. Papini’ ex husband told the Bee this week that the post was written by someone else.
“I can’t say whether the incidents described happened, but we do not have a record of it,” Bosenko said. “We don’t know if it has any relevance to this case or not.”