Sherri Papini, a mother of two who went missing three weeks ago while jogging, was reunited with her family on Thanksgiving after her abductors freed her near a California highway, police said.
Papini was “heavily battered” and “bound with restraints” when a passing motorist spotted her Thursday morning near I-5, just north of Woodland, Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko told reporters on Sunday. The spot was about 150 miles from Papini’s small community near Redding, where she disappeared Nov. 2 while running.
Papini, 34, was apparently “chained to something,” according to a police radio dispatch audio recording obtained by the Redding Record-Searchlight.
“We are very, very thankful and very ecstatic,” Papini’s sister, Sheila Koester, told The Associated Press. “It’s the best Thanksgiving that anyone could ask for.”
Papini was treated at a hospital for injuries related to an assault, Bosenko said. She was then reunited with her husband, Keith Papini, and their children, ages 2 and 4.
“It’s been a range of emotions: sadness, anger,” Koester told the Redding Record-Searchlight. “Right now, it’s joy. We are overwhelmed with joy of how supportive everyone has been to help bring us together as a family again.”
Papini described her abductors as two armed Hispanic women who were driving a dark sport utility vehicle, according to Bosenko. The sheriff didn’t say whether Papini or her family knew the suspects.
“We do not have any further description on the SUV or with the Hispanic females ― that is information we got directly from Ms. Papini,” the sheriff said. “These Hispanic females are armed, considered dangerous and they have a handgun, at least a handgun with them.”
Sherri Papini’s husband reported her missing when he returned to their Mountain Gate home from work that evening and discovered she had not picked up their children from day care. He used the “Find my iPhone” app to track his wife’s cellphone to an area near Sunrise Drive and Old Oregon Trail, where he found the device with earbuds with strands of hair attached to them.
Several organized searches that included scent dogs and helicopters were fruitless. The sheriff’s office labeled Papini’s disappearance “at risk due to the suspicious circumstances.”
The Sacramento Bee reported that as many as 20 search warrants have been filed in court related to the investigation. Authorities also were examining cellphone records, bank accounts, email, social media and video surveillance footage.
Bosenko said investigators have “no reason to disbelieve Sherri Papini’s story.”
Citing the ongoing investigation, Bosenko provided few other details.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office at 530-245-6540, or the Major Crimes Unit at 530-245-6135.