A young mother vanished during a morning jog near her California home — and was found 22 days later on the side of the highway. As she recovers, investigators push to figure out what really happened. Subscribe now to PEOPLE, or pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday, for much more on this case.
Sherri Papini’s weeks-long disappearance and eventual discovery, on Thanksgiving morning, remains in many ways a mystery: No suspects have been arrested in her apparent abduction and a motive has not been disclosed.
But through investigative work and statements from her, her friends and family, a timeline has emerged about the moments leading up to, during and after her harrowing capture.
The Day of the Disappearance
Nov. 2, sometime between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.: Papini reportedly takes her cellphone and earbuds and goes for a jog in her Redding, California, neighborhood.
Nov. 2, 5:51 p.m.: Sherri’s husband, Keith Papini, comes home from work and finds that she is not home and has not picked up their two children, ages 2 and 4, from daycare. He uses his Find My iPhone app to locate Sherri’s phone about a mile from their home. At the scene, he says, he finds the phone and earbuds, along with a few strands of blonde hair.
Nov. 2, 7:51 p.m.: Keith calls police to report his wife missing. A $50,000 reward is offered for information leading to her whereabouts. Tips begin pouring in to the Shasta County sheriff’s office.
The Search for Papini
Nov. 7: Keith is given, and passes, a lie-detector test. Police confirm his whereabouts on the day of Sherri’s disappearance and say there is no physical evidence to suggest his involvement. “Keith cooperated,” a co-worker tells PEOPLE. “He was clean as a whistle.”
Nov. 10: In a story published that Thursday, Keith speaks out about Sherri’s apparent abduction to PEOPLE, pleading for her return. “Just bring her home,” he said. “Please bring her back. The sooner the better.” Keith said he was certain Sherri’s vanishing was not voluntary: “She is my wife, and I know everything about her. I know that my wife would never leave me and never in a million years leave our kids.”
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
November: Investigators file about 20 search warrants, looking into local sex offenders, reviewing surveillance videos gathered from homes and businesses in the area and combing through mounds of cellular phone and technology data. “There were no real viable leads,” Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko tells PEOPLE about the early days of the search.
Sherri Is Found
Nov. 24, 4:30 a.m.: On Thanksgiving morning, Sherri is spotted by a motorist on the side of I-5 about 150 miles from Redding. She tells police she was abducted and held captive by two adult Hispanic women — one with straight hair, one with curly hair, both of whom were armed.
Nov. 29: In a story that Tuesday, the woman who called 911 after first seeing Sherri on the roadway tells PEOPLE the missing mom “was looking panicked and frightened.” “I saw this woman with long blonde hair in the right shoulder of the freeway and she was waving a piece of fabric that looked like a shirt, waving it up and down trying to flag someone down,” Alison Sutton said. “It was obvious: She needed help.” Keith also releases a statement to PEOPLE describing Sherri’s condition upon her release: how her accused captors beat, branded and starved her.
Dec. 2: In an interview Friday with ABC News, Keith described how Sherri’s weeks in captivity have stuck with her — both physically and psychologically. “When lights are off, when doors shut, when she hears certain sounds, I mean it’s something that I don’t know how to deal with, and we’ll need somebody who can help her through that from a professional standpoint,” he said.
Dec. 5: In an interview that aired Monday on Good Morning America, Keith told ABC News how Sherri, in part, survived the abduction: by imagining she was with Keith and their children Tyler, 4, and Violet, 2. “The things she told me,” he said, before breaking down in tears. “The things she told me that she did, talking to me each time, acting like she was tucking in our kids.”
Dec. 9: In a story in this week’s PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, Sheriff Bosenko says authorities have no reason “not to believe” Sherri. But he says investigators are still looking for anyone connected to the capture — and they are still looking for a reason why. “Abductions are rare in themselves, especially adult abductions,” Bosenko says. “On top of this, being two women [who Sherri described as her captors] is even more unique, so there remains a number of concerns that we have.”