Sherri Papini, the Northern California woman charged last month with faking her kidnapping in 2016, has acknowledged she made up the story that prompted a frantic search and international headlines.
“I am deeply ashamed of myself for my behaviour and so very sorry for the pain I’ve caused my family, my friends, all the good people who needlessly suffered because of my story and those who worked so hard to try to help me,” she said in a statement released through her Defense attorney William Portanova. “I will work the rest of my life to make amends for what I have done.”
The search for Papini, 39, of Redding, set off a three-week search across California and several nearby states until she resurfaced on Thanksgiving Day in 2016 with straps on her body and injuries including a blurred “brand” on her right shoulder and a swollen nose. She had other bruises and rashes on many parts of her body, ligature marks on her wrists and ankles, and burns on her left forearm.
Federal prosecutors alleged in early March that she actually was staying with a former boyfriend nearly 600 miles away in Southern California’s Orange County and inflicted the injures on herself to back up her false claims.
On why she did it, Portanova said “Honestly I don’t know if anybody does. I don’t know if she knows.”
“In my opinion it is a very complicated mental health situation, but one that has to be confronted and dealt with — and that includes admission and acceptance and punishment.
Papini is to pay restitution topping $300,000 including $30,694 to the California Victims Compensation Board, which reimbursed her for things including visits to her therapist for “treatment for anxiety and PTSD” and for the ambulance ride to the hospital after she surfaced near Sacramento.
She also will pay the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office nearly $149,000 and the FBI more than $2,500 for their expenses during the investigation. She also owes the Social Security Administration at least $127,568.
When Papini was found alongside Interstate 5 nearly 150 miles from her home, she told authorities at the time that she had been kidnapped at gunpoint by two Hispanic women, and provided descriptions to an FBI sketch artist along with extensive details of her purported abduction.
She was still making false statements as recently as August 2020, when prosecutors said a federal agent and a Shasta County sheriff’s detective showed her evidence indicating she had not been abducted and warned her that it was a crime to lie to a federal agent.
A GoFundMe campaign raised more than $49,000 to help the family, which the couple used to pay off bills and for other expenses, according to a court filing by investigators.
She was a stay-at-home mom at the time and her husband worked at Best Buy. The family wasn’t wealthy and there was never a ransom demand, officials said at the time.
Papini had both male and female DNA on her body and clothing when she was found, and the DNA eventually led to the former boyfriend, prosecutors say.