REDDING, Calif. (KRON) — Sherri Papini, the Northern California woman who faked her own kidnapping, was recorded on camera inside an interrogation room the moment detectives dropped a bombshell on her web of lies.
Papini, 39, of Redding, burst into tears when two detectives told her that they found her ex-boyfriend and he passed a lie detector test. The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office released the video to KRON4 on Thursday in response to KRON4’s Public Records Act request.
Papini’s ex-boyfriend, James Reyes, told investigators details about what really happened the week she claimed she was “kidnapped” by Hispanic women in 2016. Papini was never snatched off the street and held captive, as she claimed. Instead, the married mother of two had run off with her ex-boyfriend to his Southern California home.
“(Reyes) 100% told us what happened. He gave us details that nobody else would know,” one detectives says in the August 13, 2020 interrogation video.
“No, no, no. He was my friend,” Papini wails while covering her face with her hands.
Investigators had been suspicious of Papini’s elaborate kidnapping story ever since a medical exam found DNA on her clothing that matched her former lover’s DNA.
“The DNA that was on you belongs to James Reyes. The DNA alone says it’s him. And when we talked to him, confronted him with the DNA, he told us what happened,” the detective tells Papini in the video.
“He’s been on a polygraph. We have everything that says he told the truth. It’s not an abduction,” the detective says.
“No. There’s no way it’s James. There’s just no way,” Papini says.
“DNA doesn’t lie. He came and got you because you asked him to,” the detective replies.
Just before detectives dropped the bombshell evidence, the video shows they gave Papini a choice. Detectives said they could either reveal their cards against Papini right in front of her husband, or, they could do it after her husband stepped out of the interrogation room. Papini and her husband whispered together for a few minutes as detectives waited outside the interrogation room. It’s unclear whether they were aware that their whispers were being recorded.
Papini’s husband, Keith, appears frustrated as he urges his wife to help the detectives find her captors. Papini doubles-down on her lies, continues to portray herself as the victim, and tells her husband that she doesn’t want her captors to be arrested. Papini claims one of her captors helped her escape.
“I don’t want them to find her. I don’t want her to be arrested. I don’t want to press charges,” Papini whispers.
“Why?” Keith emphatically asks his wife.
“Because she saved my life. She’s the reason why I get to hold my children every single day,” Papini replies.
“You’re not making sense to me,” Keith says.
For years following the kidnapping hoax, Keith stood by his wife’s side, defending her credibility to the media and emotionally supporting her during interviews with law enforcement. Keith filed for divorce in April just two days after she pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents.
Papini was sentenced by a federal judge on Tuesday to serve 18 months in prison. Her sentencing ended a 6-year-long saga that began in November of 2016. Her husband came home from work and discovered that his children were never picked up from daycare by their mother.
The stay-at-home mom’s disappearance set off frantic search efforts across Northern California.
She re-appeared when motorists spotted her running along Interstate 5 in Woodland, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2016. She had a chain around her waist and injuries on her body. She told her husband that two Hispanic women kidnapped her at gunpoint, chained her in a closet, yelled at her in Spanish, beat her, and listened to “annoying Mexican music,” according to an affidavit.
In reality, the whole time Papini was missing, she was with her ex-boyfriend in Orange County, investigators said. Reyes said Papini had begged him to pick her up in Redding.
According to the affidavit, “The ex-boyfriend admitted to investigators that he helped Papini ‘run away.’ Papini told him that her husband was beating and raping her and she was trying to escape. Papini told her ex-boyfriend that she had filed police reports, but the police were not doing anything to stop her husband’s abuse. The ex-boyfriend and Papini had known each other since they were 13 or 14 years old. The two also had a romantic relationship and had previously been engaged.”
In the interrogation video, Papini told detectives that she wanted her husband to remain in the room because she only felt safe with him.