In early November 2016, Californian Sherri Papini mysteriously disappeared while jogging near her home, sparking a search that would garner national attention. Her husband, Keith Papini, frantically searched for his wife; he knocked on neighborhood doors, circulated her photos across all forms of media, and started a GoFundMe campaign that raised $50,000.

22 days later, a bruised and branded Sherri appeared on the side of a rural Yolo County, California, road. She was approximately 150 miles from her home when she flagged down a passing motorist. She was bound by a chain and zip ties, weighed only 87 pounds, had a broken nose, and had bruises all over her body.

The Papini family released a statement stating that they hope the case will finally be solved

After recovering, Sherri Papini left California for a while to recover. After her return, the family adopted a secretive lifestyle. In a statement sent to ABC, Keith stated that the family needed privacy after a month of intense media coverage. The statement read:

“We are a very private family whom do not use social media outlets prior to this grotesque tragedy. My love for my wife took precedents and it was clear we had to be exposed in ways we never would have been comfortable with. So please have a heart and understand why we have asked for our privacy.”

Sherri, Keith, and their two children slid back to near obscurity for four years before releasing a statement in 2020. “Sherri and Keith continue to follow the investigation while they focus on their family,” the family publicist told The New York Post. “They remain hopeful there will be a break in the case at some point and those responsible will be brought to justice.”

In late May 2021, authorities are no closer to finding out who kidnapped Sherri than they were four years ago. Some reports indicate that the case has gone cold, but police state that they are still working on it. “The case is pretty unique, so it calls for unique handling of it,” Sgt. Kyle Wallace told The New York Post.. 

“Generally when law enforcement doesn’t say there’s a public threat, they genuinely believe the person actually knows the perpetrator. The role of the police is to keep the public safe. If they believed it was some stranger that abducted her, they would be citing that over and over again.”

A man called the Sheriff’s department and stated that he was with Sherri the entire time she claimed she was abducted

Sherri told detectives that she was abducted by two Hispanic women armed with a handgun. The two women allegedly held her captive and tortured her in a basement before leaving her on the side of the road 22 days later. She provided two sketches, but they didn’t provide any leads. 

Police struggled to decipher the motive behind the alleged abduction. “When you’re going to kidnap someone, you’ve got a reason for it, whether it’s money, revenge or to get back at somebody,” retired Sgt. Giacalone told Mail Online. “Generally when kidnappings go on that long, they don’t end as well as this one did.”

The confusing facts of the case got murkier after a mystery caller phoned the Sheriff’s office claiming that Sherri was with him the whole time she was missing. “He said, basically, that it was a hoax,” a source told The New York Post

The feeling that Sherri hasn’t been entirely forthcoming about what happened to her when she disappeared for a little over three weeks in November 2016 has persisted for years. People have come up with several theories about Sherri’s disappearance, all of which Keith denied in his statement to ABC. Keith wrote:

“Rumors, assumptions, lies, and hate have been both exhausting and disgusting. Those people should be ashamed of their malicious, sub human behavior. We are not going to allow those people to take away our spirit, love, or rejoice… I understand people want the story, pictures, proof that this was not some sort of hoax, plan to gain money, or some fabricated race war.”

Many believe that the key to this confounding mystery lies in the two pieces of DNA evidence collected from Sherri. Sheriff’s Lt. Brian Jackson stated that the collected DNA didn’t match anyone on the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). The police have been requested to try matching the samples with samples present in genetic genealogy websites. 

The websites have more DNA samples compared to CODIS since CODIS only contains DNA from past perps. Sgt. Jesse Gonzalez of the Shasta County sheriff’s department declined to answer when asked whether authorities have tried using genetic genealogy to crack the case.