The mystery surrounding jogger Sherri Papini’s disappearance and inexplicable reappearance some three weeks later has baffled authorities and the public alike, but her husband has hit back at those questioning her account of what happened.
Keith Papini has spoken of the horror he felt seeing his 34-year-old wife in hospital for the first time an described hearing her harrowing story as “true hell”.
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“Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see upon my arrival at the hospital nor the details of the true hell I was about to hear,” he said in a long statement released to Good Morning America.
“My first sight was my wife in a hospital bed, her face covered in bruises ranging from yellow to black because of repeated beatings, the bridge of her nose broken.”
She weighed less than 40kg and “her signature long blond hair had been chopped off,” he said.
Sherri and Keith Papini. Source: Facebook
Sheri was reported missing after failing to return from a run on November 2.
The Californian mother-of-two was not seen again until 22 days later when she was spotted by motorists trying to flag down cars, despite bound hands, on the side of a rural road at around 4.30am.
It's unclear what happened to the "super mom" during her absence but one theory is that she was kidnapped and later dumped by her captor or captors.
"Rumours, assumptions, lies and hate have been both exhausting and disgusting. Those people should be ashamed of their malicious, subhuman behaviour. We are not going to allow those people to take away our spirit, love or rejoice in our girl found alive and home where she belongs," Keith said in the statement.
"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. I do not see a purpose in addressing each preposterous lie."
Keith also described the "mixture of horror and elation" he felt at finding his wife, who was "covered in multicoloured bruises, severe burns, red rashes and chain markings."
"She has been branded, and I could feel the rise of her scabs under my fingers. She was thrown from a vehicle with a chain around her waist, attached to her wrists and a bag over her head. The same bag she used to flag someone down once she was able to free one of her hands," he said.
"Sherri was taken from us for 22 days and suffered incredibly through both intense physical agony and severe mental torture. My reaction was one of extreme happiness and overwhelming nausea as my eyes and hands scanned her body. I was filled with so much relief and revulsion at once. 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."