SAN DIEGO – Nearly three weeks after she went missing while jogging in northern California, Sherri Papini has been reunited with her family.
Papini, a 34-year-old mother of two from Redding, disappeared on November 2. She was found Thanksgiving morning on the side of the road near Interstate 5. California High Patrol officers said she was badly beaten and chained to something.
A San Diego private detective Bill Garcia told FOX 5 that shortly after he offered his service, Papini’s family contacted him to help on the case.
“We were contacted by Sherri’s father-in-law,” said Garcia.
After conducting several searches and investigating leads of his own, Garcia believes Papini was a victim of sex trafficking.
“There’s a lot of young girls, even young men, that have been taken from that area,” said Garcia. “I know in working in the area for some years now that there’s a high incidence Mexican cartel groups.”
Papini is giving her account of her kidnapping to Shasta County Sheriff's detectives, who has now issued some 20 search warrants related to the case. Detectives are also looking through Papini’s computer and investigating old relationships.
Her possible kidnappers are described as two Hispanic women. Garcia believes they are not acting alone.
“I highly doubt that two women could hold her for that long without being found out,” said Garcia.
As Papini vanished, a so-called "ransom negotiator" offered $50,000 to the kidnappers. As the deadline ticked down, the ransom turned into a $100,000 reward for anyone who could provide information bringing Papini home.
Garcia believes it was that offer that saved Papini’s life.
“Possibly it was, because of the fashion she was released in,” said Garcia. “This type of abduction, with this type of release, does not happen. In fact, in 24 years of doing this stuff I’ve never seen a case like this.”
Investigators have not said if the money was ever paid out.
The Shasta County Sheriff has said there is no reason to disbelieve Papini's account of the kidnapping.