This couple didn’t think they’d ever see each other again – then a miracle happened

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They say that love is one of the strongest feelings. After all, many admit they would do anything to save their partner if something happened. It could be taking the blame for something going wrong all the way up to jumping in front of a speeding car. How far would you go to keep your loved ones safe? Most of the time, people get to live out their lives without too many problems, but sometimes a wrench in the works sees everything change. Just take the 2014 thriller movie Gone Girl. Nick returns only to find his wife, Amy, is missing without a trace. So how has he become the prime suspect in her disappearance? The movie may take many twists and turns, but how would you feel to know that the original novel is based on the story of Laci Peterson? Sadly, the two tales have very different outcomes. Love may be blind, but that doesn’t mean that people will stop when it comes to getting what they want – no matter who they hurt. The Papinis were living the perfect lives when everything changed. As their lives had been so good, would they ever be able to make it out the other side? Now, it was time to see how far they would go in the war to survive.

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The perfect family

Sherri and Keith Papini began dating back in 2007, and it wasn’t long before the pair tied the knot. 11 years later and the pair have two beautiful children – 4-year-old Tyler and 2-year-old Violet. Could life be any better for the couple? Keith works as a specialist with audio-video, while Sherri is in charge of running the house and taking care of the children. Life is all about spending time as a family and enjoying their time together. In fact, apart from two days a week, Sherri spends all her time with her two children. The Papinis really are the all-American family. So how had they become the target of these unthinkable circumstances? After all, their neighbors love them.

One last text

Twice a week, Sherri drops off Tyler and Violet at daycare and heads out on a jog. Her neighbors often saw the mom running through the winding roads so weren’t surprised to see her out on her usual route on November 2, 2016. Sherri text her husband, Keith, asking if they would be having lunch together, but hadn’t heard back. Instead, she laced up her shoes and headed out the front door. Only, it didn’t take long for the daycare to realize something had happened. Sherri hadn’t arrived to pick up the two children – something that had never happened before. Where could she possibly be? They began to worry, and they weren’t the only ones…

Is anybody home?

Keith arrived home at 5 pm, as usual, only there was a difference: where were his wife and children? This had never happened. Keith instantly grew worried. The father of two began to panic and started calling his wife’s cell. Why wouldn’t she answer? Keith had worked himself up into a frenzy after several failed calls. There was only one thing left to do. He had to phone the police and report Sherri missing. Would they have any answers for the now-panicking Keith?

The manhunt begins

Just one hour after Keith arrived home; his wife was officially declared missing. Although many neighbors had seen Sherri jogging along her usual path, no one had ever seen her return back. Everyone gave in their statements about their sightings, but nothing was enough for the police to have any substantial leads. Where could she have gone? 100 people soon lined up to help search the local area to track down this much-loved mother and reunite the family.

Finding the phone

Many of us having tracking on our cells in case we lose them, and Keith suddenly remembered he had an app to track his wife’s. He got out his phone, showed it to the police, and soon they were all on their way to the spot that was blinking on the screen. Only, when they arrived, no one knew what to do. On the ground lay Sherri’s phone; but no Sherri in sight. Keith began to panic. Now, the police knew that something serious must have happened to this mom.

Finger of blame

It looked as though someone had something to do with Sherri’s disappearance, but who could they blame? It wasn’t long before everyone’s eyes turned on Keith. They may have looked like the perfect family, but no one truly knows what happens behind closed doors. For the first nine days of the investigation, Keith was their leading suspect. It wasn’t long before his name was cleared and more questions began to arise. Could Sherri have made herself disappear? All her family knew it was unlikely as Sherri would do anything to protect her two children.

Pleading for safety

Everyone became desperate to find out what had happened to Sherri. If Keith was innocent and she hadn’t run away, just where could the mom be? The family wanted to keep Tyler and Violet away from the investigation. However, the police knew the children could help coax Sherri home. To top it off, the family set up a funding page to raise a $50,000 reward for anyone that had information that would lead them to Sherri. Keith was desperate to try anything.

Life-changing call

22 days on. Still no Sherri. That was all about to change. Keith’s cell began to ring, and he noticed it was an unknown number. Perhaps someone had an idea of where his wife could be? He was about to find out. Only, Keith never expected to hear a bemused police officer on the other end of the line. To make matters even more complicated, there was a woman screaming in the background. It was Sherri. The story was only about to begin…

Where had she been?

November 24, 2016 – the day Sherri was found. It was 4:30 in the morning and Alison Sutton was driving down the interstate when she noticed a strange sight. There was a woman frantically waving her t-shirt in the air. Alison was so shocked she had to swerve across the road to miss the stranger. Alison remembers the woman looking full of panic and scared for her life, but where had she come from? After all, Sherri was 150 miles away from her hometown.

Sherri’s story

It wasn’t long before the world learned of Sherri’s story. According to the mom, two armed women had jumped out of a van and dragged her inside while she was out for her usual jog. To make matters worse, their faces were covered, and they spoke entirely in Spanish. With so much confusion and being outnumbered, Sherri had no idea what to do. She also had no clue how to describe her attackers to the police. All Sherri knew was one had curly hair, while the other’s was straight. There weren’t many clues to go on.

Unrecognisable

Keith and Sherri were finally reunited at the hospital, but Keith was in for a shock. As well as hearing his wife’s traumatic tale of events, Sherri looked utterly different to the wife he had last seen all those days before. Sherri’s hair had been cut off, her face was covered in yellow and purple bruises, she had suffered a broken nose, and her skin had even been branded by her kidnappers. To top it off, Sherri had also lost 13 pounds and now weighed just 87 pounds.

Crime with a purpose

The police were now tasked with piecing together this unbelievable tale. Who were these women? What were their motives? Plus, how had Sherri been able to survive and escape? A private investigator working for the family believed they knew precisely who was behind the crimes. Apparently, trafficking was all too common in the area. Sherri’s appearance made her the perfect person to be taken and sold on for a profit. Although the police couldn’t confirm the answer, they had no other leads. However, others had their own opinions on the story…

Looking for attention

Some people on the internet and even some neighbors struggle to believe that Sherri is telling the whole truth. One internet user claims that Sherri disappeared back in 2006 and is convinced that she fabricated both of her tales. In fact, some of Sherri’s closest friends have also reported that she loves to be the center of attention no matter where they go. Could Sherri really have gone as far as to fake a kidnapping so that she could be the talk of the town?

Unknown male

11 months on from the kidnapping and police were left even more confused. They found female and male DNA on Sherri’s clothes – weren’t both her kidnappers female? They soon discovered Sherri had been texting a man in Michigan not long before she disappeared. The police were quick to track the unknown man down. However, his alibi could be confirmed, and his DNA didn’t match the sample. Was this a false lead, or was there even more to this story than anyone thought?

Contradictions in the story

As well as the confusing DNA samples, there were other red flags that began to appear in Sherri’s story. According to the mom of two, her injuries were as a result of her capture from the 22 days she was missing. However, there was something missing. A cut on her foot. Sherri told the police that she had cut her right foot during the initial fight with the two women. When they looked, there was no injury or sign of a scar where there could have been anything.

Keeping quiet

Sherri began leaving her house wearing a baseball cap and sweater with the hood pulled up over herself. It looked as though this mom didn’t want to be spotted. Whenever the media approached Sherri, they reported she clung to Keith’s arm and tried to hide her face away from the cameras. Was this in case someone spotted some crucial evidence to break her story, or was this mom just trying to get her life back to normal? Whatever that was anymore…

Too coincidental?

One piece of evidence that got people talking was the links to another story that had happened many years before. 18 years before Sherri was abducted, a friend from school called Tera Lynn Smith had been taken at the exact same place as Sherri. As if that wasn’t enough, many claim the pair have an eerie number of similarities. Sadly, Tera has never been located, and no evidence has ever been found that gives an answer to her story. To date, she is still classed as a missing person.

Police back up

Although many people have debated the truth of Sherri’s story, she has the full support of her husband, Keith. Plus, the police have reported that they believe her version of events. The officers working on Sherri’s case admit there need to be several more investigations into the details of the story, but say that the evidence matches up with her story. It looks as though the story has an answer. So why is it that the case is still regarded as ongoing?

Big welcome back

Sherri was welcomed back into the community with open arms. The whole town dressed in pink to celebrate the mom’s favorite color. The people of the neighborhood also made a huge welcome home sign to let Sherri know how much they had all missed their friend. While the case was still being investigated, Sherri could now rest safely knowing she is surrounded by loved ones. Would it be enough to help get her life back on track?

A happy ending?

Keith is more than overjoyed to have his wife back home safe and sound. After never knowing if they would be reunited, the pair are officially back together and safely in the arms of each other. Keith has released a thank you statement to all the people that helped search for his wife, as well as talking about his love for Sherri. Time will tell if the kidnappers will ever be captured, but for now, at least this couple has been reunited.

Resuming normal life

It can be difficult to recover after a traumatic event, especially something like a kidnapping. Sherri’s case in particular attracted a lot of media attention, which can be overwhelming to deal with. For a while after Sherri’s return, the family stayed very quiet and were very reclusive. But it seems like slowly but surely, Sherri and Keith are starting to get back to normal. The couple was spotted in November 2017 having a relaxing bite to eat out and about. Definitely a good sign that they are moving forward.

Kidnapping statistics

It can be hard to pin down precise statistics for adult kidnappings because it is not separately recorded in the Uniform Crime Report. In 2010, over 65,000 people above the age of 21 within the United States were officially reported missing, with a reasonable concern for their safety. Some of these might be kidnapping related, but there’s no way to know for sure. However, kidnapping is considered to be one of the most common crimes within the U.S.

Kidnapping adults vs. children

When it comes to kidnapping, we usually think of cases involving children. These days, you don’t have to look far for a news story about a missing child. It is estimated that close to 1,500 children are kidnapped every year in the United States, and the majority of those cases involve a child being kidnapped by a family member. Most don’t expect adults to be kidnapped, so they are mainyl on high alert for missing children. In this case, Jaima Gadeaun abducted her own children, who were thankfully eventually found.

Movies about kidnapping

The crime of kidnapping has long been a subject that simultaneously shocks people, but also draws them in. Sounds like the perfect basis for a good drama movie, right? Well, Hollywood seems to agree. Over the years there have been many movies with a plot surrounding a kidnapping such as Taken, Gone Girl, Man On Fire, Gone Baby Gone, and Captive. While we hope it never happens to us, watching these stories just sucks you in and makes your heart race.

Chances of returning home

Many law enforcement and investigation experts say that if you or someone you know is kidnapped, the best chances of finding them exist within the first 72 hours of their abduction. What makes Sherri’s return so unique is that she was missing for 22 days, with virtually no leads, before she suddenly turned up on the side of a road and was found. The chances of a victim like her returning home safe and sound are extremely improbable. Sherri’s return home truly was miraculous!

Oprah and changing the narrative

Back in 1991, Oprah had a guest on her show named Sanford Strong, who helped give the audience life saving advice. Before this episode, many people were told that if you find yourself in a dangerous situation with a kidnapper, comply with them and do whatever you need to do so you don’t upset them. Strong’s advice, however, completely changed the narrative. He told viewers that you should never allow yourself to be taken to a secondary location. Fight back if you have to! Today, Strong’s advice has become the standard of what people are taught.

Additional tips

There are lots of other good tips that the experts say could help save your life in the event of a kidnapping. For example, if you find yourself thrown in the trunk of a car you should either try to find the safety lever (in newer cars), or find the brake light and make a hole, then wave your hand out through the light so that other drivers might see it and realize something is wrong. Also, be sure to stay observant of your surroundings, even if it’s just something you can hear or smell.

Male kidnapping victims

For the most part, when we think of kidnapping victims, we think of young girls and women. And considering that statistically women are more likely to be kidnapped, it’s not surprising that female victims are who we first think of. However, it’s important to remember that males are not entirely immune to becoming kidnapping victims themselves. Usually, if the victim is male we are looking for a young boy, and it is typically related to custodial disputes within the family, or a predatory type of kidnapper.

A kidnapping fascination

The movies involving stories of kidnapping would not be possible without society’s fascination, and ultimately fear, on the subject. It’s horrifying, and also riveting, to hear the story of someone’s kidnapping, but also terrifying. No one wants to find themselves in the same situation, and it’s something we start teaching kids from a young age. It even shows up in children films like Tangled, where we see a girl kidnapped as a baby and the psychological consequences that stem from it.

The stigma

Unfortunately, many of the victims who do return home have suffered some sort of abuse or assault. Finding ways to heal and move forward can be incredibly difficult for these victims. A number of them have reported that something standing in their way is the stigma that victims of assault or abuse often face in society, which leads them to feeling dirty or guilty of their own abduction. Some have even gone on to advocate for better education in schools that could help teach children how to have a healthy approach towards their bodies.

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