true crime

Chilling parallels emerge between Sherri Papini and her school friend's disappearance.

When “supermom” Sherri Papini disappeared while jogging in November, she was not the first person to vanish from the forested path in California.

Nearly two decades earlier, 16-year-old Tera Lynn Smith went missing from the same Old Oregon Trail.

Yet unlike Papini, 34, who turned up 22 days later, the high school student was never found.

High school student Tera Lynn Smith disappeared 18 years ago. Image: National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children/Facebook

Aside from the shared location of their alleged kidnappings, the stories of the woman and teenager also bear a number of other disturbing similarities, the Daily Mail has reported.

For one thing, with their long blonde hair and blue eyes the pair look eerily similar, so much so they could almost be siblings.

They also attended the same high school, along with Papini's husband Keith, just one year apart.

Smith, who was in the class below the couple, had just been crowned homecoming princess when, on August 22 1998, she failed to return from a jog after leaving her home in Redding, California.

According to it's widely believed she was murdered by her martial arts instructor Troy Zink, a convicted rapist with whom she had been having a relationship.

Keith Papini reportedly remembered Smith's story, and the striking similarities with his own situation led him to reach out to her father, Terry,  just days after his wife's disappearance.

Keith came over for a while on the second or third day after Sherri went missing," Terry Smith told the Dail Mail.

"He also called later to ask whether I thought the FBI should get involved," he revealed.

Keith and Sherri attended high school with missing teenager  Tera Lynn Smith.

"We didn't know him at all until this happened, but we knew Sherri through her friendship with our daughters.


"Keith came to ask our advice and tap in to our experience, find out what we'd do differently, if we were happy with the way law enforcement had handled our case."

The 57-year-old also admitted to having regrets about the handling of the case and the amount of faith he put in law enforcement officers.

He said he was worried Keith had been too optimistic about the chances of finding his wife.

"I thought from a self-preservation perspective, I felt bad because Keith had so much hope and so much confidence that she'd be found, I kind of thought that he might need to accept the possibility that she wouldn't be coming back and in my mind a very real possibility," he said.

Sherri and Keith with their children Tyler, 4, and Violet, 2.

"I didn't have a lot of comfort to offer him. How do you tell somebody a few days after their wife's gone missing that she's probably gone for good?"

But Papini was not gone for good, and was found bound and bruised on the side of the highway on Thanksgiving.

She has since been reunited with her family, but the details of her three-week absence and alleged ordeal remain shrouded in mystery with more bizarre clues emerging almost daily.

"Sherri was taken from us for 22 days and suffered incredibly through both intense physical agony and severe mental torture," Keith told America's ABC News in his first interview.

"My Sherri suffered tremendously, and all the visions swirling in your heads of her appearance, I assure you, are not as graphic and gruesome as the reality."