true crime

CCTV footage captures moments after Sherri Papini was released by kidnappers.

The footage is dark and grainy, taken by surveillance cameras at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Yolo County, California. From the shadows, a woman runs into view, disappears down the side of the building.

Seconds pass, nothing. Then she returns, running back towards the road.

According to Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, that woman is Sherri Papini, the mother of two who was allegedly abducted while jogging near her northern California home last November, before being inexplicably freed 22 days later. It’s moments after that bizarre Thanksgiving Day-release that’s captured in the grainy video.

By releasing the footage, authorities hope to attract more leads in their search for her two masked, female captors, whom Papini described as Hispanic, one aged in her 20s and one in her 40s, who spoke mostly in Spanish.

Two DNA samples were found on Papini – one male, one female – both of which are yet to be identified.

sherri papini husband
Sherri and Keith Papini. Source: Facebook.

The bizarre saga began when Papini's husband, Keith, returned from work to learn that his wife had never collected their children from daycare. Concerned, he used a phone-finding app that guided him to a dirt trail near their Mountain Gate home. According to audio of his 911 call, it was there he found Sherri's discarded iPhone.

"I found her phone and it’s got her hair ripped out of it, like in the headphones,” he said. “I’m totally freaking out, thinking that somebody, like, grabbed her.”

At the time, police said that Papini's phone had been found carefully placed with the screen facing up and headphones neatly wound on top. There was nothing to suggest a struggle.

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Some three weeks later, before sunrise on November 24, a truck driver spotted a woman on the edge of Interstate 5.

Sherri Papini was found dazed, bruised, clearly malnourished, wearing hose clamps on her wrists and a heavy chain around her waist. Her hair had been cut and her skin branded, an act often associated with sex trafficking.

According to Papini, she'd been tossed from a dark-coloured SUV by her captors, not far from the Kingdom Hall.

“She went to the church looking for help,” said Shasta County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Jackson, according to The Los Angeles Times. But “nobody was there.”

According to local media, authorities have so far received over 600 tips in relation to the case, and are hoping the CCTV will generate more.

A reward of US$10,000 ($13,000) is being offered by the FBI for information that leads to the identification of the suspects.

In the meantime, the Papinis remain in hiding.

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