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Sherri Papini, the California woman who faked her abduction in 2016, pleads guilty to prank

SACRAMENTO, California – A Northern California Woman on Monday pleaded guilty to forging his own kidnapping and lying to the FBI about itleaving her motives unanswered in a carefully planned hoax that set off a massive three-week search before her return on Thanksgiving Day 2016.

Sherri Papini, 39, of Redding, offered no explanation for her elaborate hoax During the half-hour trial, answering only “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” in a shaky voice as Senior U.S. District Judge William Shubb outlined the charges and evidence against her back.

“I feel so sad,” she said through tears when Shubb asked how she was feeling.

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Papini agreed to plead guilty in a settlement with prosecutors reached last week and is expected to be sentenced on July 11.

Prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence at the bottom of the sentencing range, estimated at eight to 14 months in custody, down from the 25-year maximum for the two counts.

She also agreed to pay compensation of up to $300,000. That included the cost of finding her in several Western states, and the subsequent investigation into “two Hispanic women” who she said abducted her with a gun.

Papini is actually staying with an ex-boyfriend nearly 600 miles (966 km) away in Southern California’s Orange County. Three weeks later, he dropped her off along Interstate 5 nearly 150 miles (240 km) from her home.

She was strapped to her body and self-inflicted injuries including a swollen nose and a blurred “brand” on her right shoulder. She had bruises and other rashes on various parts of her body, marks on her wrists and ankles, and burns on her left forearm.

The married mother of two continues to lie about how as recently as August 2020 when there were practically no kidnappings she admitted her guilt.

Papini didn’t give a good reason for why she did it.

Her attorney, William Portanova, said last week that he was suspicious even if she knew.

He suggested “a very complicated mental health condition,” and said she delayed accepting responsibility and punishment as part of the healing process.

Papini said on Monday that she has been in psychiatric care for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder since her return – worth more than $30,000 in treatment she funds compensate the victim by the state and is now part of her compensation.

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Dr Ian Lamoureux, a forensic psychiatrist and expert witness who regularly teaches at the University of Arizona School of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic, said: “It is misleading to assume that mental illness is the cause of behavior. abnormal.

There may be a plausible, if mysterious, explanation, Lamoureux said, though he cautioned that he has not examined Papini and that many elements of the case remain unknown to the public.

Prosecutors say her fake kidnapping was not impulsive and that she had been planning it for more than a year without her husband’s knowledge. The ex-boyfriend told investigators they did not have sex while she was with him.

Lamoureux, who specializes in complex civil and criminal cases, said Papini’s organization and scheme seemed likely to make conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression a difficult explanation. can be explained.

She may have expected that the kidnapping hoax would bring her “fame and fortune,” he said.

And she benefited financially: In addition to the victim’s compensation, she had to repay nearly $128,000 in disability payments. Separately, a GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $49,000 to help the family.

As a possibly related factor, Lamoureux studied the phenomenon of false heroes or “sick heroes” taking advantage of society’s treatment of victims as heroes. People who pretend to be their own victims may be seeking recognition or fame, and if mentally ill, it could suggest narcissism or historical personality disorder.

Another possible explanation is that she faked her kidnapping to avoid some other adverse consequence, he said, typically like divorce or being fired, even though Papini is a grandma. mother at home.

Lamoureux said producing a crisis could be a way for people with fragile egos and poor coping skills to find ways to prevent bad outcomes from happening.

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