Papini will now face intense questioning by law enforcement officials as they try to figure out what happened, two security experts told the Record Searchlight on Friday.
Why was she abducted? If she was in restraints, she posed no threat to her captors, so why did they let her go?
Those are the lingering questions for Joe Giacalone, a retired New York police sergeant and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who has been following the Northern California woman’s case.
“It’s not going to be easy,” he said of the probe to come. “but she is the key to this.”
The newspaper spoke to Giacalone and Danny Detenbaugh, a former Dallas FBI director who led the task force that investigated the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and has expertise in hostage situations, to ask about the prevalence of cases in which captors release their victims and how those victims respond when they return home.
In Giacalone’s experience, it is a rarity for a victim to be released, and he was upfront that the story so far does not add up.
“To attack somebody, kidnap them, tie them up, take them 150 miles and then leave them on the side of the road, it just doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said.
But Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said his investigators have no reason to doubt Papini’s story. They and their counterparts in Yolo County are combing surveillance videos and traffic cameras to identify the perpetrators, he said.
Defenbaugh said he wanted to give the case time to allow for more details to emerge.
As to victims’ conditions once they are freed, Giacalone said it is understandable they may not be ready to talk. They are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Victims may go from crying to sudden laughing.
“People need to realize she was held captive for three weeks,” Bosenko said. “That was a traumatic and emotional experience in itself, and then upon her release was another very emotional experience, being reunited with her husband is an emotional experience. So she is only able to provide a limited amount of information.”
In separate interviews, Giacalone and Defenbaugh said Papini will need to provide detectives a full matrix of details of what happened.
Defenbaugh, speaking generally about kidnappings, said most happen for money. He said one of the first things investigators will look at is whether individuals planned their own abductions.
They look at the family’s background, whether the victim has gone through trauma during the alleged abduction and whether their physical and mental condition fits with the scenario the victim describes.
She’ll be asked to be more specific about her attackers, Giacalone said. What did they look like? What did they wear? What did they feed her? Where and how did she sleep? Were there any smells or sounds she remembers?
Cell phone and internet records, email and video surveillance will be part of the investigation, Giacalone added.
“You’re letting them go through that and see if there are holes,” Defenbaugh said. “There are a whole lot of factors that play into this.” Ultimately, investigators “will allow the evidence and facts to play out.”
In the East Coast, Papini’s case struck a chord because of how she disappeared. She had been on a jog Nov. 2 in preparation for a race near her rural Mountain Gate home.
New York and Massachusetts have high-profile cases in which a jogger was raped and murdered. In small towns and rural areas, cases like Papini’s are big and raise security issues, Giacalone said.
Bosenko at his Thursday press conference said the case points to this being an isolated incident but reminded people to always be aware of their surroundings.
Investigators are analyzing the restraints and Papini’s clothing for DNA evidence as well as surveillance video from businesses, homes and traffic cameras in the city of Redding and the surrounding counties.
“We currently have no reason to disbelieve Sherri Papini’s story, Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko told ABC News. “She was assaulted and had injuries which she was treated for.”
Before Papini was found, police had filed about 20 search warrants in court related to the investigation. Many were filed under seal, the Sacramento Bee reported. ABC reported detectives were also looking through her computer records, investigating past relationships and seeking video surveillance camera footage that might offer clues.
What is going on with the police department of Shasta County? LOL are they competent? I understand that after you’ve been on the force for a while you are complacent, and I also understand that sometimes your hands are tied no pun intended and you are not within your scope to do anything about a particular case. But when I see a complete disregard for rationality, I can’t help but Wonder what’s up with these people. Listen when you have people who are experts who worked directly with the FBI saying the story does not add up, you cannot ignore that. I don’t care about your personal feelings or whatever you think you know. I don’t care that you guys went to church together or your son dated her daughter or whatever. Common sense is common sense. And frankly I just expect people to do their jobs. Like I stated in a comment earlier. You can’t just summon the community for help, collect $50,000 from the public, then go quiet.
Technically she should give a public video statement to the public saying thank you. You may not agree with that. But I think she should. Because this case went Nationwide and it pulled on a lot of people’s heartstrings. And for her to come back and then just go underground as if the last three to four weeks did not happen is not cool. I’m not saying you have to tell us everything. But at least say thank you.