Sherri Papini interrogation video shows moment she knew she’d been caught

Astonishing, and at times infuriating, video of Sherri Papini’s interrogation by California detectives was released Tuesday, showing the moment she learned her kidnapping hoax had been found out.

Papini and her husband, Keith Papini, met with Shasta County Sheriff’s Office investigators on Aug. 13, 2020. Before her story unraveled, detectives asked if she wanted her husband to leave the room.

“They’re asking you. They’re not asking me,” Keith Papini says as Sherri sits silently beside him. When Sherri didn’t respond, the two detectives got up and left, giving the couple a few minutes to decide with the camera still rolling. In hushed tones, Sherri can be heard urgently telling her husband that she did not want police to find her kidnappers; Papini claimed that two “Hispanic” women kidnapped her on a jog near her Redding home in November 2016.

“I don’t want them to find her. I don’t want to press charges,” she says repeatedly. When asked by her visibly frustrated husband to explain why, Papini says, “Because she saved my life.”

“You’re not making sense right now,” Keith Papini replies. “To the point where I’m getting scared.”

When detectives returned to the room, they gave Sherri one last chance to have her husband leave. He stayed, and Sherri began repeating her assertion that she didn’t want her kidnapper found.

“We’re not going to find her,” a detective responds.

Then, the dynamic shifts. Detectives launched into a play-by-play of how Sherri Papini faked her own kidnapping by asking ex-boyfriend James Reyes to pick her up in Redding and hide her in his Costa Mesa home. DNA found on Sherri’s body was matched to Reyes, who readily admitted to the plot when investigators tracked him down.

“The DNA alone says it’s him, and when we talked to him, confronted him with the DNA, he told us what happened,” the detective says. “He 100% told us what happened. He gave us details that nobody else would know.”

At this point, Sherri put her head in her hands, barely lifting her gaze for the remainder of the interview. She alternates between repeating, “No, no” and saying, “I don’t know,” in a wailing tone as detectives press her to tell the truth.

Sherri Papini arrives at the federal courthouse for sentencing accompanied by her attorney, William Portanova, right, in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. Federal prosecutors are asking that she be sentenced to eight months in prison for faking her own kidnapping in 2016. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Sherri Papini arrives at the federal courthouse for sentencing accompanied by her attorney, William Portanova, right, in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. Federal prosecutors are asking that she be sentenced to eight months in prison for faking her own kidnapping in 2016. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

About 20 minutes into the interrogation, Keith Papini asks to leave. (In April, he filed for divorce and to have sole custody of their children, citing “the negative impact of their mother’s notoriety” in court documents.) Although Sherri continues to deny most of the detectives’ allegations, she occasionally seems to admit she made up her ordeal.

“Why did I do that?” she sobs at one point.

“We’re trying to understand why you did that too,” a detective says. “We’re trying to understand all of it.”

Shortly before the video ends, Papini murmurs, “I’m horrible.”

“I don’t think you’re a horrible person, Sherri,” replies the detective. “I think things went a little sideways on you.”

Sherri Papini was charged with lying to the FBI and fraud. On Monday, she was sentenced to 18 months in prison; prosecutors had only asked for eight. She must report to prison in November.

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