Sherri Papini's Account of Abduction Is Believable, Says Investigator
“There is no information that would indicate that it is not true,” Shasta County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Brian Jackson, who was one of the first investigators to interview Papini, tells PEOPLE.
Papini vanished last Nov. 2 while jogging near her Redding home. More than three weeks later, she was found on Thanksgiving morning when she was spotted on the side of a road 150 miles from her home in rural Yolo County. Police officials said she had been beaten, branded and chained, with her long blonde hair chopped off.
Papini told police she was abducted at gunpoint and held captive by two armed Hispanic females — one in her 20s or 30s and the other between 40 and 50 — who spoke Spanish the majority of the time. She also stated that the suspects “made efforts to conceal their identities with face coverings.”
The FBI released sketches Wednesday of two women described by Papini.
“It has taken time for Sherri to recover to a point to be able to provide accurate details to the sketch artist,” a sheriff’s office press release obtained by PEOPLE states.
Jackson tells PEOPLE he hopes “somebody will be able to recognize the females in those and provide us with concrete information so we can move forward and get some people in custody.”
Papini told investigators that during her abduction, she got into an altercation with the younger suspect in the bathroom when she was allowed to shower, Jackson says.
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Jackson says Papini reported that she had cut the side of her foot during the confrontation, but that when photographs of Sherri were being reviewed at the hospital, there was no evidence of such cuts.
“It is obviously an inconsistency,” Jackson says. But he adds that under stressful circumstances, people often have foggy recollections.
Papini told investigators that she had not been sexually assaulted, and “there is no physical evidence to indicate otherwise,” the news release states.
The mysterious case captivated the nation and spawned numerous theories about what happened.
Jackson says authorities have ruled out sex trafficking as a motive for her abduction. “Just on the facts that we know, it doesn’t seem to be a sex trafficking or a sexual abduction in nature, and that is what we are trying to figure out: What was the purpose?” he says.
Papini Had Both Male and Female DNA on Her
Jackson says Papini had both male and DNA on her when she was found: the male DNA from the clothing she was wearing, and the female DNA taken from her body after she was taken to the hospital. The DNA sample did not produce matches to known offenders.
Jackson says Papini’s alleged female abductors gave her clothing to wear. Therefore, he says it’s possible “that the clothing that was provided to Sherri are clothes that belonged to somebody who was an acquaintance of the captors, and hopefully down the road, once we get these females identified, we will get the answers for that.”
The sheriff’s office also revealed in the press release that Papini and a male acquaintance from Michigan were involved in a “online/texting relationship.” Jackson would not specify whether or not it was romantic; the DNA sample did not belong to the Michigan man or to Papini’s husband, Keith Papini.
The Michigan man has been ruled out as a suspect.
“The text messages went back several months to days before her disappearance,” says Jackson of the Michigan man. “It was a prior contact that she had years before. Somebody she met and kept in contact with.”
Jackson says the acquaintance had visited California — but not Redding — days before Papini went missing, adding that “there is no indication they met up. That is why we went back to Michigan and ruled out” that the acquaintance was involved.
Papini’s Husband Speaks Out
Papini’s husband, Keith, released a statement to the Los Angeles Times on Thursday, expressing his family’s increased hope that those allegedly responsible will be brought to justice.
“We want to express our immense gratitude to all of the many people who have publicly and privately supported us over the last year. Your well-wishes have helped beyond measure. We are hopeful that the release of additional information by law enforcement will expedite the capture of Sherri’s abductors,” Keith said.
“This has been an extraordinarily difficult time for our entire family. We ask that the media please respect our need for privacy as Sherri continues to heal and we work towards putting our lives back together.”