Exclusive interrogation video shows detectives confront Sherri Papini about 2016 kidnapping hoax

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Thursday, September 22, 2022 1:20PM
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Video obtained exclusively by ABC News shows how detectives exposed the lies of Sherri Papini, the California woman sentenced to prison for faking her own kidnaping in 2016.

REDDING, Calif. (KABC) -- Video obtained exclusively by ABC News shows how detectives exposed the lies of Sherri Papini, the California woman sentenced to prison for faking her own kidnaping in 2016.

The video from inside an interrogation room shows Papini become tearful as policed pressed her on her claims that she was abducted and tortured by two Hispanic women who kept her chained in a closet.

"I didn't do anything wrong," she's heard saying in a tearful denial.

In the video, Papini's husband, Keith, is seen by her side as police confronted her.

"The reason why you can describe the room is because you stayed in the room in the dark for hours, for days on end," an officer says.

The 40-year-old vanished while jogging in Northern California in November 2016, prompting a multi-state search that drew international attention. Three weeks later on Thanksgiving morning, she was found on a highway bound in chains.

Three years later, detectives traced DNA on Papini to an ex-boyfriend which led to the unraveling of the hoax.

For her husband, the police confrontation changed everything.

"You're telling me, 'OK you guys can go home now.' Well do you think I want her anywhere around my kids or around me at this point?" he says in the interrogation room video.

He has since filed for divorce.

Papini, 40, pleaded guilty last spring to staging the abduction and lying to the FBI about it. As part of a plea bargain, she is required to pay more than $300,000 in restitution.

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Probation officers and Papini's attorney had recommended that she spend a month in custody and seven months in supervised home detention, while prosecutors wanted her to serve the eight months behind bars. But on Monday, Senior U.S. District Judge William Shubb said he opted for an 18-month sentence in order to deter others.

The judge said he considered the seriousness of the offense and "the sheer number of people who were impacted." They included law enforcement officers who searched for her, the community that believed her for four years, those who lived in fear because of her fake story of being abducted by two Hispanic women, and the Latino community that was falsely viewed with suspicion.

"The nation is watching," Shubb said, paraphrasing prosecutors' argument in a court filing. "They need to be sent the right message. We have to make sure crime doesn't pay."

Papini quietly answered, "Yes, sir," when the judge asked if she understood the sentence. Previously, she choked back tears as she gave a statement to the court accepting responsibility and admitting her guilt.

Papini has never given a rational explanation for her behavior, which included months of careful planning before she disappeared and temporarily abandoned her children, who are most precious to her, defense attorney William Portanova said. Her actions stumped even independent mental health experts who said they didn't conform with any typical diagnosis.

Portanova blamed it on "what sounds like a fierce storm that was going on for a long time inside her head" but said she is now a changed woman.

Papini offered no explanation during her brief, tearful comments to the judge before she was sentenced.

"I'm so sorry to the many people who have suffered because of me," she said.

"I am guilty, your honor. I am guilty of lying. I am guilty of dishonor," she said. "What is done cannot be undone. It cannot be erased."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.