California mom who faked kidnapping acts like hoax ‘never existed’ as ‘blindsided’ husband breaks silence

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Sherri Papini’s ex-husband is still wondering why the mother of two faked her kidnapping.

“I do believe the core thing would be attention,” Keith Papini told Fox News Digital. “I think she likes it when people feel for her and look at her as a victim… at anyone’s cost. To be honest, I don’t think she’s capable of seeing what she did and the lives that it affected, the ripple effect, how much pain she caused so many people.”

“I always think about all the people [who tried to help] during those 22 days [she was missing],” Keith reflected. “All the kids that probably weren’t allowed to ride their bikes anymore, all the women that probably didn’t go jogging anymore… I don’t think she has any understanding of how detrimental it was.”

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Keith Papini, the ex-husband of Sherri Papini, claims to Fox News Digital he still doesn’t know the whole truth about her story. (Hulu)

After seven years of silence, Keith is speaking out about the high-profile hoax that rocked his Redding, California, community. He’s appearing in a new true-crime docuseries on Hulu, “Perfect Wife: The Mysterious Disappearance of Sherri Papini.”

An attorney for Keith, 41, didn’t immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

“I’ve been approached over the years by a lot of different outlets,” said Keith on why he’s coming forward now.

The Perfect Wife poster

Keith Papini speaks out in the docuseries “Perfect Wife.” (Hulu)

“I think I was finally in a spot where I could talk about all the pain Sherri caused our family… I wanted to get the truth out about what really happened.”

Keith said before his life turned into a nightmare, it seemed like a fairy tale. He described being instantly smitten by the blue-eyed “hot blonde.” After tying the knot in 2009, he and Sherri welcomed a son and daughter. Life appeared picture-perfect for the couple.

Sherri Papini and Keith Papini looking in a mirror

Sherri and Keith Papini share two children, Violet, 9, and Tyler, 11. (Hulu)

“I never felt unloved by her,” said Keith. “She would write songs, she would write me notes constantly. She would tell me how happy she was in our marriage and how we would never get a divorce. She was just so in love with me, and I would repeat those things back to her.”

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Keith Papini kissing Sherri Papini's hand on their wedding day

Keith Papini told Fox News Digital he never felt “unloved” by Sherri Papini during their marriage. (Hulu)

“There was no part of me that ever thought she would fake injuries and have this whole hoax to the extent that she did,” he shared. “I could not foresee that. But I did think we had a happy life. We do have amazing children.”

“I was blindsided,” Keith added.

“I was blindsided.” 

— Keith Papini

Life for the pair began to unravel on Nov. 2, 2016. That evening, Keith reported his wife missing after he discovered she wasn’t home and hadn’t picked up their children from daycare. Her purse and jewelry were left behind. 

An extensive search for the missing mom ensued. It wouldn’t be until Nov. 26 that an emaciated Sherri, covered in bruises, was spotted by a driver. She was bound with restraints and found nearly 150 miles from her home.

A distraught Keith Papini being consoled by a neighbor outdoors

Keith Papini, right, is consoled by friends and family members. (IMAGN/Andreas Fuhrmann-USA TODAY NETWORK)

Sherri told authorities two masked Hispanic women forced her into an SUV at gunpoint and held her captive.

FBI poster in Sherri Papini case

The FBI poster of the suspects in the kidnapping of Sherri Papini. (FBI)

Her blonde hair had been cut to shoulder-length, and she had a blurred “brand” burned into her right shoulder, authorities said at the time. She had both male and female DNA on her body and clothing.

A GoFundMe campaign raised more than $49,000 to help the family, which the couple used to pay off bills and other expenses, according to a court filing.

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A welcome home party for Sherri Papini

A welcome home party for Sherri Papini was held after she was found 22 days later. She was discovered beaten and in chains on Thanksgiving morning. (IMAGN/Andreas Fuhrmann/Record Searchlight-USA TODAY NETWORK)

During the lengthy investigation, Keith willingly took a lie detector test and passed. He also offered “all my phones and computer, anything police needed.”

Keith said that at first, he was elated to be reunited with his love. But then he started to question Sherri’s story.

“There were many things that just didn’t add up, but I wanted to support my wife,” Keith admitted. “If you can’t trust your wife, who can you trust? I just kept saying to myself, ‘I’m going to do everything for my wife.’ I was led to believe that she was happy with us and that she didn’t want any other life with anyone else… I just wanted to support her at all times that we were together. With that being said… I’ll never know all of the truth.”

“There were many things that just didn’t add up, but I wanted to support my wife.” 

— Keith Papini

An empty dirt road.

Sherri Papini was found nearly 150 miles from her home. (IMAGN/Andreas Fuhrmann/The Record Searchlight via USA TODAY NETWORK)

Keith wasn’t the only one to have doubts.

Sherri provided descriptions of her alleged kidnappers to an FBI sketch artist, along with extensive details of her purported abduction. However, investigators later discovered evidence that would contradict her story. In reality, authorities said, Sherri was staying with an ex-boyfriend nearly 600 miles away from her home and had hurt herself to back up her false statements.

Sherri Papini and lawyer

Sherri Papini leaves the federal courthouse accompanied by her attorney, William Portanova, after her arraignment in Sacramento, California, on April 13, 2022.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

“When a young mother went missing in broad daylight, a community was filled with fear and concern,” U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert said in a statement at the time. “Ultimately, the investigation revealed that there was no kidnapping and that time and resources that could have been used to investigate actual crime, protect the community, and provide resources to victims were wasted.”

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A group of people out in the rain searching for Sherri Papini

“When a young mother went missing in broad daylight, a community was filled with fear and concern,” U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert said in a statement at the time. (IMAGN/Nathan Solis-USA TODAY NETWORK)

The DNA found on Sherri eventually led to the former boyfriend, a court filing revealed. The ex told investigators that Sherri stayed with him at his house during the time she was gone, though they never had sex.

sheriff speaking about papini case in 2016

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko is seen speaking at a news conference to discuss the Sherri Papini case in Redding, California. (Andreas Fuhrmann/The Record Searchlight via AP)

His account was verified when authorities tracked the locations of two prepaid cellphones that they had been using to secretly talk to one another as early as December 2015, according to a 55-page affidavit filed in court to support the criminal charges. A cousin of the former boyfriend also told investigators that he saw Sherri in the man’s apartment twice, both times unrestrained.

Records backed the ex-boyfriend’s story that he rented a car and drove Sherri back to Northern California.

Sherri Papini trying to get inside a car.

Sherri Papini was arrested in 2022. She was charged with making false statements to federal agents and mail fraud. (IMAGN)

In March 2022, Sherri was arrested and charged with making false statements to federal agents and mail fraud. A month later, she formally pleaded guilty, admitting her kidnapping claims were a hoax.

Keith said that at first, he attempted to protect his young children from the possibility that Sherri’s kidnappers would come to “finish the job.” But after Sherri’s admission, he tried to shield them from the relentless media scrutiny.

“We lived in a sense of fear that somebody was after us,” he said. “If the kids were outside playing, and they saw anybody, it was almost like they were taught to run inside. There’s a part of me that knows that those six years of their childhood were almost stolen away by Sherri.”

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A black and white photo of Sherri Papini looking away from Keith Papini

According to the docuseries, Sherri Papini previously described Keith Papini as controlling. He said the allegations were “hurtful” and “untrue.” (Hulu)

According to the docuseries, Sherri claimed that Keith was a controlling spouse. He said the allegations were “hurtful” and “untrue.”

“… She was saying I was beating her and that the cops wouldn’t do anything,” claimed Keith. “… [When it came to] our mutual friends… it was a totally different story… It was hurtful to hear those things at the moment because I’m not sleeping, I’m not eating. I’m fighting for my wife’s life. And to know that she was going around saying these… untrue things, it’s hurtful… But you can see a pattern here.”

In September 2022, Sherri was sentenced to 18 months in prison for faking her kidnapping. She was released early in 2023.

Sherri Papini walking in between two women outside a courthouse.

Sherri Papini, center, leaves her sentencing hearing at the Robert T. Matsui U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building in downtown Sacramento on Sept. 19, 2022. Senior U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb sentenced her to 18 months in federal prison for faking her kidnapping in 2016. The judge said he gave her a longer sentence to prevent others from committing similar crimes. (IMAGN)

Sherri has never given a rational explanation for her behavior. Her actions stumped independent mental health experts who said they didn’t conform with any typical diagnosis.

Defense attorney William Portanova blamed it on “what sounds like a fierce storm that was going on for a long time inside her head” but said she is now a changed woman. He noted in a pre-sentence court filing that Sherri was “in pursuit of a nonsensical fantasy.”

 

After her initial arrest, Sherri received more than $30,000 worth of psychiatric care for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. She billed the state’s victim compensation fund for the treatment and was ordered to pay it back as part of her restitution.

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A missing poster for Sherri Papini next to balloons

Keith Papini said he’ll never know the whole truth about what really happened. Today, Sherri Papini still lives in California. Her ex-boyfriend has never been charged. (IMAGN/Amber Sandhu-USA TODAY NETWORK)

Keith filed for divorce and sought custody of their children after Sherri pleaded guilty. He claimed she had shown “zero remorse.”

“… This wasn’t just some lie she told that ended when she got arrested,” said Keith. “This was a lie she told every day, every minute… Maybe being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t fulfilling her… She has never apologized to me or the children… She acts like it never existed.”

“Perfect Wife” is now available for streaming. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This post was originally published on Fox News

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