Search continues for Sherri Papini’s possible abductors
ONE week after Californian mother Sherri Papini was found chained and beaten on the side of a highway, her husband Keith Papini has revealed how his wife was “coughing up blood” from screaming so hard.
“She screamed so much, she’s coughing up blood from the screaming, trying to get somebody to stop,” he said.
“And again just another sign of how my wife is, she’s so wonderful. She’s saying, ‘Well maybe people aren’t stopping because I have a chain that looks like I broke out of prison’, so she tried to tuck in her chain under her clothes.”
Following his initial statement to Good Morning America earlier this week, Mr Papini has been blamed for seriously compromising the investigation after releasing a detailed statement of his wife’s appalling injuries, including the fact that she had been branded. Investigators said they were “surprised” and “blindsided” by his decision to go public with crucial details regarding her ordeal.
But Mr Papini’s exclusive sit-down interview with US current affairs show20/20, has now gone into even greater detail about the personal toll his wife’s capture took on him and their two young children — and the chilling detail of the moment she was released.
“I thought about her being there screaming my name,” he told reporter Matt Gutman in a clip from the interview, set to air in the US on Friday night.
“She was bound, she had a metal chain around her waist,” he said. “She had a bag over her head … her left hand was in the vehicle chained to something, she was chained anytime she was in a vehicle.
“They opened the door — she doesn’t know because she had a bag over her head — they cut something to free her restraint that was holding her into the vehicle and then kind of pushed her out of the vehicle and she at this point has no idea where she’s at. She ran to the freeway.”
Mr Papini’s latest interview comes after police investigating the alleged kidnap and torture confirmed that Mrs Papini’s iPhone and headphones, one of the few clues in her disappearance, may have been planted as a red herring.
The crucial items were found by Mr Papini on the Mountain Gate trail about 1.5km from the Papini residence in the days after his wife vanished.
Sheriff Tom Bosenko confirmed on Wednesday that Mrs Papini’s phone and headphones had been “neatly placed” rather than lost in a struggle.
San Diego private detective Bill Garcia, who worked closely with the Papini family during the three-week ordeal, speculates that the 34-year-old mother-of-two was a victim of sex trafficking.
“I suspect, based on the types of injuries that Sherri incurred — the beating, the broken nose, the
the cut hair, especially the chains and the branding — indicate that it was most likely one of these sex trafficking groups,” Mr Garcia told America’s Today show.
Ms Papini disappeared for 22 days, before turning up on the side of a rural road in Yolo County on Thanksgiving morning — about 240km from where she was last seen.
The badly beaten woman was found starved and chained, telling police she had been ejected from a dark-coloured SUV by her captors.
Rebecca Bender, a survivor of domestic sex trafficking and now public speaker and author, said when she heard husband Keith Papini’s statement regarding his wife’s physical condition, particularly the revelation that she had been “branded”, she suspected it to be a human trafficking case.
She explained that branding was a hallmark of human trafficking, but said most trafficked women were between the ages of 18 to 24 and usually had no loved ones.
“They probably didn’t know who they were grabbing. Sometimes with abductions, traffickers are targeting victims in foster care, come from bad homes, people who aren’t going to have anyone looking for them,” Ms Bender told NBC local affiliate KOBI.
Shasta County Police sheriff Tom Bosenko declined to comment on a possible motive.
“We don’t have specific information,” he said when asked during a press conference if there was any indication that the kidnapping was “cartel related or possibly sex trafficking”.
Sheriff Bosenko did confirm that Ms Papini had been branded, but declined to provide further detail.
“I will confirm that the suspects did brand her. I will not get into details of where the brand is located on her body nor what was branded on her, for again, the integrity of the investigation,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.
Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has received reports of 14,588 sex trafficking cases in the United States.
On Wednesday, authorities released new details about Ms Papini’s alleged assailants after interviewing the 34-year-old mother-of-two for the third time.
Until now, police have come forward with limited descriptions of the suspects, two Hispanic women driving a dark-coloured SUV, armed with a handgun.
Ms Papini said both alleged captors spoke in Spanish for the majority of the time during her 22-day captivity.
One was “younger”, with long curly hair, thin eyebrows, pierced ears and a thick Spanish accent. The other suspect was older with straight black and grey hair and thick eyebrows.
Ms Papini was unable to provide more detailed descriptions because the women had kept their faces covered most of the time, and sometimes covered hers.
“She was held against her will and was isolated, and at times, Sherri’s head was covered,” Sheriff Bosenko confirmed.
He said investigators were working with a sketch artist as they compare Ms Papini’s case to others in several US states.
Human Trafficking – Part 1
WARNING – Graphic Content: Award winning mini-series that exposes the underworld of human sex trafficking. Viewer discretion is advised.
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