California Woman Who Staged Kidnapping Sentenced to 18 Months


picture of Sherri Papini

By Emily Sawyer, Senior Editor

A California mother who staged her own kidnapping is sentenced to 18 months in prison for lying to the FBI. 

Sherri Papini, 40, disappeared on a November afternoon in 2016 while out for a run. 3 weeks after her disappearance, she was found on the side of the road, beaten and bruised, claiming she had been kidnapped and tortured by two Hispanic women.

After cross-referencing DNA on the clothing she had been wearing the day of her disappearance, authorities discovered that she had “disappeared” to a former boyfriend’s house, where she had injured herself to coincide with the scheme.

I am so sorry to the many people who have suffered because of me – the people who sacrificed for the broken woman I was, the people who gave willingly to help me in a time that I so desperately needed help,” she said, reading from a prepared statement.

Although there is no clear “why,” it is known that Papini has suffered from mental health issues. During her sentencing memo, her lawyer William Portanova “referenced her ‘chameleonic personalities’, which he said pathologically ‘drove her to simultaneously crave family security and the freedom of youth.’”

In a US District Court Papini admitted to being guilty of lying and dishonor.

Aside from the actual hoax, in continuing with the story for years, Papini wasted “limited resources” and “caused innocent individuals to become targets of a criminal investigation,” prosecutors said during the filing. 

Her final sentence is 18 months in prison followed by 36 months of supervised release–much longer than what attorneys requested (8 months). 

Wayne Hills senior Emily Nolan said “I am actually shocked. This sounds like something that would happen in a movie.”

While serving time is punishment enough, her reputation is also diminished. Her attorney would like to make it clear that she is a changed woman.

“Whatever happened five years ago is a different Sherri Papini than the one you see here today,” he said.