Sherri Papini was beaten and branded with an unspecified message during her three weeks in captivity, Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said Wednesday during an outdoor press conference that drew interest from national and network media outlets.
The 34-year- old mother of two, who was abducted Nov. 2 while jogging near her Mountain Gate home, has been “cooperative and courageous” during extensive interviews with detectives conducted over the past two days, Bosenko said.
“During the interviews with Sherri she described the sequence of events to the best of her recollection. Remember, that she was held against her will and isolated,” the sheriff said. “There are still a lot of unknowns about her assailants, however we commend Sherri for her efforts to sit down with our detectives and provide a statement.”
The interviews “were very intense for both detectives and Sherri, due to her having to relive this traumatic event,” Bosenko said.
She described her abductors as a pair of Hispanic females who kept their faces covered for the most part and spoke Spanish for most of the time Papini was in captivity. The younger of the two suspects was described as having long, curly hair, pierced ears, thin eyebrows and a thick accent.
The older suspect has straight black hair with some grey and thick eyebrows.
Papini was shown surveillance video of several sport utility vehicles seen in the area at the time of her abduction but she said none of them matched the SUV driven by her abductors, Bosenko said.
“I would like to remind the media and the public we will not disclose everything Sherri provided for the integrity of the investigation,” Bosenko said. Later, in response to a question, Bosenko said he felt “blindsided” by the details included in a statement Papini’s husband, Keith, released to “Good Morning America” on Tuesday. That statement was circulated less than an hour before Bosenko appeared on the show for an interview with host George Stephanopoulos.
Some of the details in Keith Papini’s statement—including the extent of Papini’s injuries, which included a broken nose, bruises and welts, and that her “signature long, blond hair had been chopped off”—could compromise the investigation, Bosenko conceded.
Keith Papini reportedly released his statement to counter rampant speculation in social media that his wife’s abduction was a hoax or tied in with a post she purportedly made in 2003 on a now-defunct white supremacist website.
In that post, a person identified as Sherri Graeff (Papini’s maiden name) talks about the pride she has in her European heritage and describes two altercations with Latino women while a student at Central Valley High School. David Dreyfus, her ex-husband (they were divorced in 2007), has told reporters that Papini did not write the post and was most likely the victim of a prankster.
Bosenko said detectives do not know why she was taken, or if she was targeted by a cartel for sex trafficking or if she was the victim of a random abduction. The available evidence indicates that only the two women were involved, Bosenko said, while noting that his office’s Major Crimes Unit “continues to dedicate all its resources to identifying and apprehending those individuals responsible for the abduction of Sherri Papini.”
Papini was located at about 4:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving after her abductors released her on a rural road in northern Yolo County near Interstate 5. She managed to free herself from restraints and summon help from a passing motorist on I-5.
Evidence gathered from the area of her release is being analyzed by criminalists with the state Department of Justice, Bosenko said. Several search warrants have been submitted for cell phone information and detectives are reviewing that data as it becomes available, he said.
“Until we identify the suspects, the public should remain cautious. As always, we continue to ask for the public’s help,” Bosenko said.
Anyone with information related to Papini’s abduction and/or release is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office tip line at 530-245- 6135. Tips also are welcome at the Shasta County Secret Witness Program, which can be reached at 530-243- 2319.
“We are thankful that Sherri has been reunited with her family and ask that you keep the Papini family in your thoughts and prayers throughout the holiday season. I also want to thank Keith Papini for his cooperation and information in this case,” Bosenko said.
“Again, this is an active investigation and there is sensitive information that is not being disclosed for the integrity of the investigation,” he added.