She told investigators that she was kidnapped by two Hispanic women during a jog on Nov. 2. Her husband said she endured extensive abuse — her body branded and starved, her nose broken and her long blonde hair cut off.
Papini described one of her accused abductors as having long curly hair, thin eyebrows and pierced ears; and the other as older, with straight black hair and gray and thick eyebrows. She said they spoke Spanish the majority of the time.
In the months since her disappearance, no arrests have been made and no motive has been confirmed.
Though authorities have declined to describe their investigative efforts in detail, they tell PEOPLE their work remains very much active. Papini’s family, meanwhile, has sought privacy to process her ordeal.
“We work on this case every day,” says Shasta County sheriff’s Lt. Pat Kropholler.
Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko has said they have “no reason” not to believe Papini’s account.
A detective is assigned full-time to her case, Lt. Kropholler tells PEOPLE: “He works on [it] constantly. He is in constant contact with the Papinis.”
Speculation has swirled about what the possible motive behind the apparent abduction could have been. Was it sex trafficking? Was it random?
Whatever the reason, Lt. Kropholler says he doesn’t believe there is cause for alarm from the public.
“I think the public should be vigilant, but I don’t believe there is a public safety concern,” he explains. “This is not a common occurrence here.”
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Kropholler is also clear that recent reports that Papini’s family previously called law enforcement about her — according to documents published last week — have no connection with the kidnapping investigation. (Papini faced no charges in connection with those incidents.)
“Nothing from these old log reports [has] anything to do with the current case that has been reported,” Kropholler says. “People have incidents that occur 13, 16 years ago, and it doesn’t mean it has anything to do with today’s incident.
“There is no evidence here that shows this is a hoax or this didn’t occur.”
He continues, “We are in contact with the Papinis on a regular basis and following up on leads and analyzing evidence.”
The Shasta County sheriff’s detectives said in November — before Papini’s return — that they traveled to Michigan and issued more than a dozen search warrants in the case, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Papini and her family have not spoken publicly since last year; they and their friends did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
“We would just appreciate our time to heal and privacy,” her sister told the Sacramento Bee in March.
Papini’s husband, told 20/20 in December that her recovery is “not just a long road. It’s something we’re never going to forget.”
“She literally lived through hell,” he said.
Papini persevered in part by thinking of her children: “She told me she took a piece of cloth and rolled it up like it was [our daughter] and she rocked it,” her husband said. “She was so strong.”
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In a statement on Thursday through a spokeswoman, responding to “shameful” news stories about the law enforcement calls, the Papinis again underlined their desire to be left alone:
“Sherri Papini and her family are the very recent victims of an extremely violent crime that has painfully and dramatically changed the course of their lives forever. … It is our hope that the media will honor their privacy as they work through this difficult time.”
Authorities, too, continue to dig.
“I wouldn’t judge this case without having all the facts, and obviously it is an ongoing investigation and we can’t release everything,” Lt. Kropholler says. “I am hoping some day we come to a successful resolution and we can release further information. Right now, my main concern is maintaining the integrity of the investigation. I am more concerned about getting the case solved.”
• Reporting by DIANE HERBST, CHRISTINE PELISEK and HARRIET SOKMENSUER