Woman Who Faked Her Own Kidnapping To Escape Marriage Sentenced To 18-Months In Prison

Sherri Papini

According to a release from the Department of Justice, Sherri Papini, who faked her own kidnapping in 2016, was sentenced to a year and a half in prison on Monday.

As a result of her admission to the hoax and her plea in April to mail fraud and making false statements, Judge William B. Shubb sentenced Papini, 40, to 18 months in prison followed by 36 months of supervised release. Approximately $310,000 in restitution was also ordered from her.

prosecutors asked the judge to sentence her to eight months in prison, while the defense requested seven months of home detention and one month in custody.

In her statement to the judge, Papini expressed her apologies to the people who have suffered because of her. She also thanked all those who sacrificed for the “damaged” woman she was.

“I am ready to repent and to concede,” she told the judge.

After going for a jog near her Shasta County home in Northern California in November 2016, Papini was reported missing. A few weeks later, she was found injured and alone on a highway about 140 miles away.

She told police that two masked women who kept her chained in a closet, held at gunpoint, and branded her with a heated tool abducted and tortured her.

For several years, authorities searched for the supposed Hispanic captors without success. She also received more than $30,000 in victim compensation funds from the state.

However, in 2020, investigators connected DNA from her clothing to an ex-boyfriend, who then confessed that the alleged kidnapping was a hoax.

Police investigated innocent targets because of the hoax, federal prosecutors said in their sentencing memo.

prosecutors in the filing said “Papini planned and executed a sophisticated kidnapping hoax, and then perpetuated false statements for years after her return without concern for the harm she caused others.”

As a result, state and federal investigators devoted limited resources to Papini’s case for nearly four years before they independently discovered the truth: she had not been kidnapped and tortured.”

The prosecution added that Papani “caused innocent individuals to become targets of a criminal investigation.”. “She left the public in fear of her presumed Hispanic capturers.”

According to her attorney, Papini’s reputation has already suffered enough as a result of the hoax, which she admitted to in her sentencing memo.

“Sherri’s years of denial are now undeniably over. Her name has now become synonymous with this awful hoax,” attorney William Portanova wrote.

The punishment at this point feels like a life sentence. “It is hard to imagine a more brutal public revelation of a person’s broken inner self,” he said.

Using genetic genealogy technology, investigators tested unknown male DNA on clothing she was wearing in 2020 to break the case open. Investigators took DNA from Papini’s former boyfriend to confirm he was a match, according to an affidavit released earlier this year, which connected Papini’s DNA with a family member of her former boyfriend.

During an interview with investigators, the ex-boyfriend admitted to helping Papini escape her abusive relationship by housing her at his home in Southern California. According to the affidavit, he said she had cut off her own hair, injured herself, and asked him to brand her with a woodburning tool to perpetrate the ruse.

An interview with his cousin, who saw Papini at the house, and his telephone records corroborated the ex-boyfriend’s account, as did his work schedule, rental car receipts, odometer records, and toll records.

Despite warnings that lying to authorities is a crime, Papini stuck to her original story about two Hispanic women kidnappers and denied she had seen the former boyfriend, according to the affidavit.

Her husband Keith Papini filed for divorce and custody of their two children, saying she was “not acting in a rational manner.” Authorities announced charges in March 2022 and she pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal a month later.

In a statement released Monday, Keith Papini described the events of the past two months as shocking and devastating. “My current focus is to provide my two children with a normal, happy and healthy life.”

During her trial in April, Papini said she was in treatment for anxiety, depression, and PTSD since 2016.

As she told the judge on Monday, “What was done cannot be undone. It cannot be erased. I am not choosing to remain frozen like I was in 2016. I am choosing to commit to healing the parts of myself that were so broken.”

For more on this story, please consider these sources:

  1. Sherri Papini sentenced to 18 months in prison for kidnapping hoax  KCRA Sacramento
  2. California woman who faked her own kidnapping sentenced to 18 months in prison  CNN
  3. Sherri Papini Arrives, Leaves Sacramento Court After Prison Sentence In Kidnapping Hoax  Sacramento Bee
  4. Sherri Papini gets prison time for faking her own kidnapping  SFGATE
  5. Sherri Papini’s lawyer reacts after sentencing  KCRA News
John Nightbridge is a veteran reporter, researcher, and economic policy major from UCLA. Passionate about world issues and potential ways to solve them is a significant focus of his work. Writing freelance and reading the news are John's passions at work. Outside of work, it's all about sky diving, surfing, and stock market modeling.