It’s a mystery that would take years to solve.
On November 2, 2016, Keith Papini returned home and his wife of seven years, Sherri, was nowhere to be found.
Her car was in the driveway of their Redding, California home. He assumed maybe Sherri took the kids on a walk and they’d be back soon. But as time passed, Keith grew more concerned. Then he found out that his children had never been picked up from daycare.
He called 911 and reported his wife missing.
There were clues left behind, like her phone at the end of their driveway, headphones still plugged in.
And something was tangled up in the earbuds. Sherri’s hair.
As police began their investigation, the family began spreading the word.
The community came together, volunteers searching day in and day out.
Some in the community compared Sherri’s disappearance to one that happened years earlier: The 1998 disappearance of 16-year-old Tera Smith also in Redding. Sherri and Tera had attended the same high school, but they weren’t friends, as Tera was a few years older. And the night Tera disappeared, she had told her little sister she was going out for a jog.
Tera Smith has not been found.
But Sherri Papini miraculously reappeared Thanksgiving morning, three weeks after she vanished. She was spotted darting in and out of traffic on I-5. Someone driving by called it in. Sherri was battered and bruised, but back.
Lucky to be alive… Or so it seemed.
It would take almost five and a half years for detectives to find out what really happened those three weeks.
Those detectives sat down with Dateline and, for the first time, revealed details of the investigation.
Watch the full episode, “The Curious Case of Sherri Papini,” now.
People in the Redding, California community react to the Sherri Papini case:
After watching the episode, learn more from former FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole about how the FBI handles false allegation cases: