It’s been over a year now since Sherri Papini, an athletic and beautiful mother of two small children, disappeared like a wisp of California fog on a jogging trail near her home in Mountain View. The photogenic blue-eyed blond made national news–would that have been the case if she had been dark, with brown eyes? There was talk, there were theories right out of the box. Had her husband staged this event?
He was cleared even before the “happy” ending three weeks later as she was found, roadside. If you call a happy ending one where a kidnap victim, traumatized and humiliated, is tossed out of a car 150 miles from home weighing thirty pounds less, battered and bruised. Every bit the worse for wear as an old, rusted car in a junkyard. She was still young, 34, and apparently soon on the mend.
But why was she grabbed in the first place? There was nothing to rob, nor was there a sexual assault. There was never a ransom demand.
So what the hell happened? She identified her abductors as two hispanic women, yielding a gun. Could it have been cartel related? Had she angered criminals of great power, who sent minions to snatch her? Was it connected to an illicit relationship, and the story about female abductors just a smokescreen?
One theory with a certain logic is that her abductors were professional teen snatchers, under pressure to step up their kidnapping numbers. These people grab youth who are never seen again as they are held, somewhere in the world, for prostitution. On a drive-by glance Sherri might have appeared half her real age.
But when they realized their mistake, why not jettison the over-age merchandise within three days, not weeks? Why the “brand,” as police have called it, on her arm? And why not just kill the woman, to leave no trace or witnesses? After all, these people are as mean as Nazis with a toothache, why would they let her live?
Still, in this November, of 2017, Sherri is in the news and the “why” questions continue. The case was crime, but all the questions are psychology: why do people behave the way they do? And why do we afford no privacy to victims of brutality, who have enough to deal with in their private healing? (Understandably, she and her family have more or less gone underground.).
Fast Forward to March, 2022.
This case took a dramatic turn when DNA found on Sherri’s clothes at the time was traced to an old male friend. The guy admitted to police, apparently, that he harbored Sherri in his home while she was supposedly “kidnapped,” because she told him she needed shelter from an abusive relationship with her husband. He further told authorities that she starved herself those three weeks, accounting for the weight loss, marked and disfigured herself, and then asked to be dumped on a highway as a way to be rescued and reunited with her family. She missed her kids, she said.
The male friend is not necessarily in trouble, nor is her husband in trouble as of this writing. But Sherri has been taken into custody, and as of spring, 2022, is in serious trouble. If the authorities are right, she led everyone on a many-year’s long wild goose chase to find kidnappers, used GoFundMe money for personal debts, and made a fool out of law enforcement. Serious trouble.
This case will be of interest to psychologists for a long, long time. Stay tuned for updates.