An anonymous donor who offered $100,000 for the safe return of Sherri Papini, the 34-year-old white woman who went missing while on a jog three weeks ago, might now use the ransom money to help the Redding, California, mother and her family recover after she was found heavily battered on the side of a highway Thanksgiving morning.
Papini was discovered bound by restraints along the Interstate 5 highway outside of Sacramento after being reported missing by her husband on Nov. 2. Her husband notified the police about his wife’s disappearance after discovering she hadn’t picked her children up from day care that day, which he said was completely out of her character.
Keith Papini said when he first saw his wife after the kidnapping, she weighed 87 pounds and her blond hair was lopped off.
"Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see upon my arrival at the hospital, nor the details of the true hell I was about to hear," he said in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" Tuesday. "My first sight was my wife in a hospital bed, her face covered in bruises ranging from yellow to black because of repeated beatings, the bridge of her nose broken."
The donor, who acted without the help of police, initially offered Papini’s captors $50,000 for her safe return, USA Today reported on Nov. 18. The ransom sum was then upped to $100,000 for any information about her disappearance roughly 24 hours before she was found, the Los Angeles Times reported.
After Papini was found, Cameron Gamble, a Redding defense contractor who trains government employees about hostage situations and was hired privately by the anonymous donor, told local reporters that money could potentially go to Papini’s family as the donor wanted to “support the family in any way he can to ensure they receive the necessary treatment for their recovery.”
While the anonymous benefactor returned the ransom money to the bank when his offer to obtain any information pertaining to the identities of Papini's captors expired last Wednesday, Gamble said the amount the donor would give to her family was “really up to him at this point.”
“But there’s only one hero in this. It’s Sherri Papini,” Gamble told local reporters. “She found the key to stay alive.”
Papini told investigators she had been abducted by two armed Hispanic women driving in a dark sport-utility vehicle while jogging near her house in Northern California. Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko, who confirmed she suffered injuries requiring medical treatment Sunday, told ABC News there was “no reason to disbelieve” Papini’s story.
Bosenko said he did not believe the unknown benefactor's ransom money caused Papini’s return, citing that no one called the police department with a tip about the identity of the suspects. Bosenko said while law enforcement officers were still searching for her captors, the investigation had shifted toward looking into events from Papini’s past, including her first marriage, divorce and online activity that might have inspired her kidnapping, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. He said it was not apparent whether Papini had previously known her abductors personally.