California mom Sherri Papini survived her alleged three-week ordeal in part by cuddling a piece of fabric as if it were her 2-year-old daughter, according to her husband.
“She told me she took a piece of cloth and rolled it up like it was Violet, and she rocked it. She was so strong,” Keith Papini told ABC’s 20/20 in an interview aired Friday.
The stay-at-home mom, 34, was found bruised, emaciated and branded with a threatening message on the side of a highway Thanksgiving morning, 22 days after she was allegedly abducted by two Hispanic women while jogging in Mountain Gate, Calif.
Keith Papini was considered a suspect until he passed a polygraph test nine days after his wife disappeared. He described that test as taking hours to 20/20, adding, “It never occurred to me at first that people would think it was me.”
But even though the husband was cleared, his loose lips may have made it harder for the police to solve the case.
Some of his descriptions about her injuries were intentionally kept from the public, Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said earlier in the week, after learning about the husband’s interview with ABC. “I do think that with some of the details he has provided, it could affect the integrity of the investigation.”
Sherri Papini has yet to make a public appearance since she was found. Her alleged ordeal has left her shattered, her husband said.
“When the lights are off, when doors shut, when she hears certain sounds,” said Keith Papini. “I mean it’s something that I don’t know how to deal with, and we’ll need somebody who can help her through that from a professional standpoint.”
Cops still have no motive for the kidnapping. Bosenko said there is no specific information indicating it was related to drug cartels or sex trafficking, as some have speculated. Others have theorized she was snatched by some sort of cult.
“We still do not have a motive as to why Mrs. Papini was taken,” he said. “We do not know if she was specific target or if this was a random abduction.”
Her inability to provide specific descriptions of the women who held her or where she was is making it even more difficult to unravel the mystery.
“Sherri did her best that she could in providing the descriptions, but she was not able to provide a detailed description due to the suspects covering their faces, and at times Sherri’s head was covered,” the sheriff said. He noted also that victims of traumatic experiences sometimes suffer memory loss.
And while there’s active speculation online that the entire episode was some sort of hoax — the family raised about $50,000 online to help with the search while she was missing — police said they believe, at this point, the abduction was real.