A California man is pleading for the safe return of his wife, who he says was abducted last week while jogging.
“I just want her back, and I want her back safe,” an audibly devastated Keith Papini tells PEOPLE.
“Just bring her home,” he says to whomever is responsible. “Please bring her back. The sooner the better.”
There’s been no trace of 34-year-old Sherri Papini since she went for a morning jog on Old Oregon Trail and Sunrise Drive on Nov. 2 near Redding, California, a rural town in the northern part of the state. Authorities have not named any suspects and said Sherri doesn’t have any known medical conditions that could explain why she vanished.
The Shasta County sheriff previously said an abduction was possible, but investigators did not yet have any evidence that’s what happened. They are still trying to determine if Sherri going missing was “voluntary or involuntary,” according to the Record Searchlight.
But her family says her disappearance is completely unlike her — and the discovery of her abandoned cell phone and earbuds near her running trail has fueled their concerns.
“She is my wife, and I know everything about her,” Keith says. “I know that my wife would never leave me and never in a million years leave our kids.”
Keith believes his wife “would have to have been either snuck up on, or there would have been multiple or maybe two people, because my wife is very aware. She wouldn’t have allowed somebody to get that close to her unless it was unsuspecting”
The abductor, he says, is probably a stranger: “My gut says it is a person unknown to myself and Sherri. My gut tells me it is just low-life people.”
Search teams including family members and friends have scoured the area since her disappearance. A Help Find Sherri Papini Facebook page has been set up, as was a GoFundMe campaign, which has raised more than $42,000 toward search efforts. The Papini family has also offered a $40,000 reward for Sherri’s safe return.
Authorities have said Keith was not involved, according to the Record Searchlight. Sheriff’s officials told the paper that Keith passed a polygraph test and that they were able to confirm his location on the day Sherri vanished. (The sheriff’s office did not return multiple calls.)
“There is no physical evidence at this time suggesting he had any involvement,” a spokesman told the Searchlight.
Keith tells PEOPLE such speculation “was the least concern I had.”
“They [the sheriff] already knew at that time it wasn’t me,” he says. “Once this story went everywhere, it was time for them to release to the public — so it is not like it was a relief for me, because that is not where my head has been this whole time. My head has been trying to find my wife.”
Their Last Conversation
Keith says he last received a text from Sherri at 10:37 a.m. that Wednesday, asking if he planned to return home for lunch.
“I didn’t get that message because I don’t usually bring my personal phone in with me,” he tells PEOPLE. “I texted her back later at 1:30 p.m. and said, ‘Sorry, it is going to be a late day.’ ”
Keith says he believes his wife went jogging around 11 a.m., shortly after he didn’t return her text. “I am putting her leaving around that time,” he says. “That is based on the text I got, and there were some people I spoke with that were cutting down a tree, and they informed us that they saw my wife running. ”
He says he became worried when he arrived home from his job at Best Buy that night to find neither Sherri nor their two children, who Sherri usually picked up from child care.
During his search of the house, Keith says he found a partially wrapped present addressed to him from his wife and two kids. “She must have been wrapping her presents,” he says. “It is like an American flag pillow that she more than likely she made it. It wasn’t here when I left, so I know that she must have been working on that.”
‘I Knew Something Horrible Had Happened’
Keith says he texted his wife again, and when she didn’t respond he used the Find my iPhone application and located his her cell phone and earbuds about one mile from their home, near the intersection of Old Oregon Trail and Sunrise Drive. The earbuds reportedly had strands of Sherri’s hair on them.
Keith confirms that a few strands of hair were found — maybe between three and eight strands — but says “it wasn’t a normal thing.”
“Once when I saw the phone, it only confirmed what I already felt that I knew somebody grabbed her,” he says. ” I knew something horrible had happened, and I immediately called 911.”
In the days leading up to his wife’s disappearance, Keith says nothing seemed amiss.
“There wasn’t any weird texts phone calls or emails,” he says. “There is not like a suspicious thing I thought of or seen that I could point in that direction.
“It is nothing like that. It is just like she vanished.”
Anyone with information about Sherri’s disappearance is urged to call the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office at 530-245-6540 or 530-245-6135. Tips also can be submitted at firstname.lastname@example.org.