The Northern California woman whom federal investigators found had faked her own 2016 kidnapping has now admitted she did it, will plead guilty, and has issued a public apology.
Not long after an actual kidnapping occurred in Vallejo that authorities immediately — and shamefully — decided was a hoax, another kidnapping of a blonde white woman dominated headlines here and around the country in November 2016. A 34-year-old mother of two from the Redding area, Sherri Papini, disappeared while out jogging, and then mysteriously turned up several weeks later, showing bruises and an apparent branding mark, telling a story about being taken by two Hispanic women and held hostage.
Then the media started digging into Papini's past, and found she'd had a checkered adolescence that involved some contact with law enforcement. But it wasn't until five years later that federal investigators concluded an investigation and found that Papini hadn't been abducted, and had in fact spent those three weeks with an ex-boyfriend in Southern California.
She proceeded to give descriptions of her non-existent abductors to an FBI sketch artist, and to lie repeatedly to local and federal authorities. To make matters worse, as we earlier reported, she had spent several years defrauding the California Victim’s Compensation Board to the tune of over $30,000, collecting funds to pay for therapy to recover from her fake abduction.
Now, as NBC News reports, Papini has agreed to plead guilty to two counts of mail fraud and lying to a law enforcement officer, and to pay more than $300,000 in restitution to federal, state, and local agencies. Prosecutors have said they will recommend a reduced sentence, but the maximum she could receive for those charges is 25 years in prison.
As the Sacramento Bee first reported, Papini's attorney, William Portanova, signed the plea agreement Tuesday, which came with the requirement that Papini admit she orchestrated the hoax.
"I am deeply ashamed of myself for my behavior and so sorry for the pain I’ve caused my family, my friends, all the good people who needlessly suffered because of my story and those who worked so hard to try to help me," Papini said in a statement Tuesday.
"I will work the rest of my life to make amends for what I have done," Papini said.
It's not known how Papini's husband or family feel about all of this. Shortly after her March 3 arrest, the family put out a weird statement through a publicist saying they were "confused by several aspects" of the charges against her.
"We love Sherri and are appalled by the way in which law enforcement ambushed her [that] afternoon in a dramatic and unnecessary manner in front of her children," the family said.
The feds sounded notably annoyed by the whole case in various statements.
"She was presented with evidence that showed she had not been abducted,” said U.S. Attorney Phil Talbert’s office in a statement when Papini's charges were announced. "Instead of retracting her kidnapping story, Papini continued to make false statements about her purported abductors."
Now she's probably facing some jail time, but we may not know how much for a while. She was scheduled to appear in court today and again on Monday to enter her plea.