ABC’s “20/20” aired its full interview Friday night with Keith Papini, the husband of the Shasta County woman who was reunited with him last week after vanishing weeks earlier.
In the interview, Keith Papini frequently broke down in tears as he described his frantic search for his wife after he found her iPhone and earbuds near their rural mailbox, about a mile from their home.
“I knew she was taken,” he told ABC.
He also told “20/20” what it was like to hear the voice of his wife, Sherri, after she was discovered on a darkened Yolo County highway early Thanksgiving morning and a California Highway Patrol officer called with the news.
“It was my wife screaming in the background, yelling my name, and a CHP officer that seemed somewhat confused at the moment, like, ‘What is going on?’ ” Keith Papini told the program. “And (the officer) said, ‘I need you to be calm. I need you to be calm.’ … I already know it’s her. I can tell her voice.
“I get the phone, and (said), ‘Oh my God, honey.’ And of course she’s screaming. It’s very emotional. And, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you, Oh my God, you’re here. You’re back. Where are you?’ And then the phone gets taken away from her. Like, super quick.
“I’m panicked, but I’m happy because at this point this is the first time I’ve heard her voice,” he said. “I know she’s alive.”
Sherri Papini, 34, was reported missing after failing to return from a jog near her Mountain Gate home on Nov. 2. Motorists spotted her 22 days later on along Interstate 5 in Yolo County.
According to Papini’s husband, she has told authorities she was abducted by two women who kept her in chains and badly beat her before releasing her. Shasta County authorities are investigating the case as an abduction, but have released few details.
The full “20/20” interview, which aired Friday at 10 p.m., revealed few surprises, though it did expand on some parts of the Papinis’ story that had already been reported.
For instance, after her alleged captors released her on Thanksgiving morning near the town of Yolo along I-5, Sherri Papini tried desperately to get help, her husband told ABC.
“She, at this point, has no idea where she's at, and gets up and basically tries to find help, runs to a house that didn't have any lights on, and didn't look what she said was very inviting, looked scary, and obviously if you could imagine her state of mind at this point,” Keith Papini told the “20/20” interviewer.
“There was a junkyard or some kind of yard or something like that that she tried to get into and a big dog started barking and scared her, and then she went and familiarized herself with where she was at by standing in (sic) the overpass and noticed I-5 symbols and she knew that I-5 North is where we live.”
Keith Papini said his wife saw lights and ran to another building, ABC reported. When she couldn’t get into that building, she ran to the freeway, where she tried to flag down passing motorists. None stopped, though dozens called 911, the network said.
“She screams so much. She said she was coughing up blood from the screaming, trying to get somebody to stop,” Keith Papini said. “Again, just another sign of how my wife is: She’s saying, ‘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.”
Police, EMTs and sheriff’s deputies arrived, finding Sherri Papini disoriented.
“She thought it was late that night, so when the paramedics finally were talking to her, they were the first people to tell her, ‘Happy Thanksgiving.’ It just blew her mind and then she's like, ‘Oh, it's Thanksgiving night?’ And they said, ‘No, it’s Thanksgiving morning,’ ” Keith Papini said.
After telling their two children their mother had been found, Keith Papini said he raced to the hospital where she was being treated in Woodland. Her face was badly beaten and her long blond hair had been “chopped off to above her shoulders,” ABC reported.
“The bruises were just intense,” Keith Papini said in the “20/20” interview. “The bumps from, you know, being hit and kicked and whatever else. Her nose, so dark and yellow. It made me sick that there [are] people out there that could do something like this.”