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Search for missing California mother continues after husband passes polygraph exam, officials say

Sherri Papini, a mother of two, has been returned to her family in Northern California.
Sherri Papini, a mother of two, was reported missing from Northern California in early November and was found three weeks later.
(Shasta County Sheriff’s Office)

The husband of a missing mother who last was seen jogging through a Northern California town has been ruled out as a suspect after he passed a polygraph exam, authorities said.

Keith Papini has been talking with detectives and submitted to a polygraph Monday as the investigation into his wife’s disappearance intensified, according to Lt. Anthony Bertain, a spokesman for Shasta County Sheriff’s Office. Papini reported his wife, Sherri, missing on Nov. 2 after she failed to return from a jog in the community of Mountain Gate, north of Redding.

“The results of the polygraph examination indicate he has no involvement with the disappearance of his wife,” Bertain said in a statement. “Sheriff’s Office detectives have confirmed his whereabouts on the day in question, and there is no physical evidence at this time suggesting he had any involvement.”

The announcement comes after a relative of the couple’s addressed reports Tuesday that Papini was involved in his wife’s disappearance and that she walked out on her family.

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“Unfortunately, there are random, ignorant people on the internet that are casting aspersions on both Sherri and Keith,” Rod Rodriguez III said in a statement on Redding Crime 2.0 on Facebook, a group with thousands of members.

He described the couple as having a loving relationship, adding that Keith Papini hasn’t obtained an attorney despite being interrogated by authorities multiple times. He has provided detectives with all of their electronic devices and allowed authorities to search their home and cars without warrants, the relative said.

“In regard to the hurtful rumors regarding Keith, everyone that actually knows him knows of his and Sherri’s wonderful loving relationship and devotion to their family and knows he had nothing to do with Sherri’s disappearance,” Rodriguez said. “That is why everyone of them was out searching last weekend, one notable family rented search helicopters and another couple cut their vacation short and flew home across the Atlantic while another flew down from Idaho.”

Rodriguez said he went on vacations with the couple and celebrated their wedding anniversary, which was in early October.

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“We recognize that in 80% of the disappearance cases the spouse is responsible,” he said. “But conversely, that means in 20% of the cases the spouse is not involved. This case falls into the latter category.”

Sherri Papini was a devoted mother of two and had gone trick-or-treating with her family days before her disappearance, Rodriguez said. She had even started planning for Thanksgiving, saying that she would cook sweet potatoes for the children, he said.

“As to her devotion to her kids it is the stuff of legend to all that know her,” Rodriguez said.

Investigators have received more than 200 tips regarding the search for the 34-year-old mother, sheriff’s officials said. Detectives have been reviewing surveillance video and information obtained from the couple’s cellphones and email accounts.

“Detectives are still trying to determine if her disappearance is voluntary or involuntary,” Bertain said.

Papini went for a jog and walk alone about 2 p.m. on Sunset Drive in Mountain Gate and had texted her husband that day, authorities said. He returned home from work to find his wife and their children were not inside.

He later discovered his wife hadn’t picked up their two children from daycare as she usually did.

Papini then pulled the “Find my iPhone” mobile app, which led him to Old Oregon Trail and Sunrise Drive. There, he found his wife’s cellphone and earbuds with strands of hair attached to them, Sherri Papini’s sister, Sheila Koester, said.

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Anyone with details about the missing mother is urged to call the sheriff’s office at (530) 245-6540 or the Major Crimes Unit (530) 245-6135. Tips also can be submitted at mcu@co.shasta.ca.us.

veronica.rocha@latimes.com

For breaking news in California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.

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