Search continues for Sherri Papini’s possible abductors
POLICE investigating the bizarre kidnap and torture of Sherri Papini say they were “blindsided” by a graphic statement released by her husband in response to accusations the incident was staged.
Keith Papini described his wife’s horrific injuries in minute detail, from the “bruises ranging from yellow to black because of repeated beatings” to the “severe burns, red rashes and chain markings” on her emaciated, 39kg body.
But it was his revelation Ms Papini had been “branded, and I could feel the rise of her scabs under my fingers” that appears to have caused police the most consternation.
“There’s some unique information in there that was in his press release today that we were hoping to keep a tight rein on as far as what we were going to release to the public,” Head of Investigations at the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, Lieutenant Anthony Bertain, said.
“It’s not the first hurdle in this investigation that we’ve had, we’ve overcome many of them, not just in this case, but there’s surprises in all investigations, so this just wasn’t good timing.”
Lt Bertain told KCKRTV that he understood Mr Papini’s desire to defend his family against a growing wave of negativity and suspicion aimed at the couple but said he was “disappointed” and “surprised” by the release of “key pieces of information, like the branding”.
Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said he only learned about Mr Papini’s statement an hour before it went to air on Tuesday’s edition of Good Morning America.
The 34-year-old mother-of-two was allegedly abducted while taking a routine jog along the Mountain Gate trail near her home in Redding, northern California on November 2.
Authorities, family members and dozens of volunteers searched for weeks before Ms Papini surfaced on Thanksgiving Day morning — more than 240km from where she was last seen.
“She was able to walk to a nearby church, but nobody was there at 4.30 in the morning, and then she walked back and was able to flag down a motorist near Interstate 5 and Yolo County Road 17,” Sheriff Bosenko told reporters
“There the motorist stopped and of course called 911.”
He said Ms Papini told police she had been thrown from a dark coloured SUV by her captors, whom she described as two Hispanic women armed with a handgun.
COPS WADE THROUGH CONSPIRACY THEORIES
Even before Ms Papini showed up alive, there was no shortage of doubters airing their views on social media.
The conspiracy theories ranged from Mr Papini staging his wife’s abduction to cover up the fact he had murdered her to a joint plot by the couple for financial gain and national fame.
Others have suggested Ms Papini was having an affair and inflicted her injuries herself to mask vigorous, possibly sadomasochistic sex sessions.
There is also an unfounded allegation that Ms Papini’s in-laws made claims that she attempted to stage her own abduction in 2006 doing the rounds on Facebook.
But nothing stoked the flames of suspicion greater than Ms Papini’s assertion the perpetrators were a pair of Hispanic women armed with a handgun.
The statistically unlikely scenario sparked comparisons to the notorious case of Susan Smith, who told police her two young children had been kidnapped by a “black man” during a carjacking when she had in fact murdered them herself.
A racially-charged blog posted in 2003 under the name Sherri Graeff — Ms Papini’s maiden name — has been circulated in forums and on social media for the past five days as “evidence” of her troubled history with Latinos.
The blog detailed an incident in which Sherry’s father had been called “Hitler” and “Nazi” by a group of “Latino guys and girls” while attending a homecoming volleyball game with his daughter.
The author, posting as Sherri, claimed to have broken the nose of a Latino girl in a bid to defend her father’s honour after the confrontation turned violent.
“Three Latino guys and five girls rushed in and jumped me,” the blog states.
“They kept hollering about how they hated Skinheads, how all Skinheads should be ‘burned alive’ and how I and my ancestors were supposedly all ‘KKK’.”
The author says she was knocked to the ground and kicked in the face.
The post read: “Then, I thought, ‘Is it worth it? Is being white and standing up for myself and my beliefs worth all this pain I’m having to put up with?’
“Being white is more than just being aware of my skin, but of standing behind Skinheads — who are always around, in spirit, as well — and having pride for my country.
“Being white is my family, my roots, my way of life. It’s always there. There’s no denying it. It’s nobility. It’s strength. It will be there to lift me up when I really need my pride, when I need to ‘keep walking’.”
But Ms Papini’s ex-husband David Dreyfus has told the Daily Mail that the post was a malicious prank by someone who hated her in high school.
Mr Dreyfus, who split amicably with Ms Papini in 2007 after a brief union said: “That post isn’t true, it was a prank by someone at high school, she never found out who did it. Sherri isn’t racist.”
Sheriff Bosenko confirmed police were aware of the rant but believed it was “too dated” to have any relevance to her abduction.
“There was a post under her maiden name of Graeff and that was posted, kind of like a little bit of history of her growing up and then some cruelty that may have occurred to her father,” he told reporters.
The sheriff admitted police did not know whether Ms Papini had written the post or not.
“We’ll definitely look in to it to see if it will have a nexus in the case, but it is very early on. This is an open and ongoing investigation.”
Others have pointed out several posts Ms Papini made on Pintrest under the board “Cultural Differences” which appear to be “pro-white” and critical of Muslims.
Another, entitled Alter Ego, celebrates the submissive housewife movement and includes photographs from the Stepford Wives movies, including the remake starring Australian actor Nicole Kidman.
Police have said they have no reason to disbelieve Ms Papini’s story but have so far failed to establish a motive. They do not believe she was abducted for financial gain.
KEITH PAPINI’S FULL STATEMENT
“The first thing I would like to address is the overwhelming amount of gratitude our entire family has for the thousands of people that have been on this torturous journey with us. I cannot possibly name each and every person, although their names are eternally etched in our hearts.
Thank you to our strong family, devoted friends, the entire Redding community and countless communities around the world. Specific thanks to the Shasta County Sheriff’s department, FBI, NorCal Alliance for the Missing, the Lost Coast Trackers, Shasta Support Services, the Guardian Angels, my own personal A-team, Cameron Gamble, Cody Salfen, Jim Linnan, Sean Ditty, Don Armstrong, Yolo County Sheriff’s Department and hospital, the medical personnel that helped our dear Sherri, social media and many news outlets.
Thank you to LRT Graphics and Signarama. Thank you to the extremely generous, anonymous as well as named donors all over the world [who] selflessly gave to our family. Thank you to the many incredible humans that have never known Sherri that facilitated in sharing our heart break across the globe.
Sherri has always captured my heart, and it is no surprise that she has captured the hearts not only through the country but throughout the world. Thank you, truly, immensely, sincerely and with my entire heart.
Secondly, we live in a nation of free speech, accompanied with an era of technology that provides immediate gratification.
This is a double-edged sword. I am grateful for this system, as it is what spread my wife’s face quickly throughout the world, gaining the attention of thousands.
the unfortunate side is that some people have been sitting in angering, expectant positions, waiting for the gory details.
Rumours, assumptions, lies and hate have been both exhausting and disgusting. Those people should be ashamed of their malicious, subhuman behaviour. We are not going to allow those people to take away our spirit, love or rejoice in our girl found alive and home where she belongs.
I understand people want the story, pictures, proof that this was not some sort of hoax, plan to gain money or some fabricated race war. I do not see a purpose in addressing each preposterous lie.
Instead, may I give you a glimpse of the mixture of horror and elation that was my experience of reuniting with the love of my life and mother of our children.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see upon my arrival at the hospital nor the details of the true hell I was about to hear. The mental prison I was in over the past three weeks was shattered when my questions of my wife’s reality became known.
The officers warned me to brace myself. My first sight was my wife in a hospital bed, her face covered in bruises ranging from yellow to black because of repeated beatings, the bridge of her nose broken.
Her now emaciated body of 87 pounds (39kg) was covered in multicoloured bruises, severe burns, red rashes and chain markings. Her signature long blond hair had been chopped off. She has been branded, and I could feel the rise of her scabs under my fingers.
She was thrown from a vehicle with a chain around her waist, attached to her wrists and a bag over her head. The same bag she used to flag someone down once she was able to free one of her hands. Sherri was taken from us for 22 days and suffered incredibly through both intense physical agony and severe mental
torture. My reaction was one of extreme happiness and overwhelming nausea as my eyes and hands scanned her body. I was filled with so much relief and revulsion at once. My Sherri suffered tremendously, and all the visions swirling in your heads of her appearance, I assure you, are not as graphic and gruesome as the reality.
We are a very private family [who] do not use social media outlets prior to this grotesque tragedy. My love for my wife took [precedence], and it was clear we had to be exposed in ways we never would have been comfortable with. So please have a heart and understand why we have asked for our privacy. This will be along road of healing for everyone. Ultimately, it was Sherri’s will to survive that brought her home. Thank you.”
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