WHEN THE NEWS first broke that a beautiful Redding mother of two young children vanished while on a November 2nd afternoon jog, I was doing what you’re probably doing right now: sitting in a chair and reading.
And that’s pretty much all I’ve done in the months since Sherri Papini was released from her captivity on a cold, dark Thanksgiving Day morning in rural Yolo County. Just sitting, reading and wondering what really happened.
There’s a sleight of hand in how I’ve named this essay series, by the way. All of this conjecture I’ve posted here on my website, and that others have shared in the media and on Reddit, doesn’t seem to be focused on what happened to Sherri. Rather, it’s focused on what really happened to Sherri.
Do you see the difference in the wording?
The essays I’ve written thus far in this five-part series were creative writing endeavors at the expense of truth. I wasn’t armchair sleuthing in an effort to unearth damning information to build a case against Sherri, nor was I theory building in an effort to offer her some hope and protection. What I was doing was sitting down at the dinner table with the Joneses and spewing atoms for the sake of having some writerly fun.
I’m saying this in hindsight, of course. The hours I spent writing those essays were intense and heartfelt. I genuinely cared about this young woman and her husband Keith and their children, and her extended family and everyone else who has been an active participant in this case.
This includes Sheriff Tom Bosenko, who has been ragged on in the media and especially on Reddit, and maybe even a little bit by me — and it also includes Cameron Gamble, who I rather unaffectionately referred to as Pee-wee Herman and John Walsh’s lovechild in my second essay.
Gah, I feel like a wiener head for having said that.
There’s a lot of rough and tumble stuff I wrote that has left me feeling less than pleased with myself as a writer. The couple of dozen emails I’ve received, praising me for my “humorous summary of a most perplexing missing persons case,” may have fluffed my feathers. But as I’ve said before, I’m not a crime writer. This is somebody else’s turf, as evidenced by my last essay about doggone dogs.
I’m going to finish this series, though, so what I’d like to do with this essay is remind you what my premise has been all along, despite some scruffy verbiage and bold characterizations. You may not agree with my stance, but that’s okay. What’s not okay is assuming you know what really happened. You don’t, and neither do I, not yet anyway.
I’ll do this in a series of quotes.
SHOULD I HAVE written whereby? I’ve never really understood the difference.
Anyway, I’m just going to jump in with all paws on deck. This is from Part One, an essay that summarizes the case up to Sherri’s Thanksgiving Day rescue:
Sherri Papini was brutalized during the three weeks she was gone, as I’m sure you’ve heard. She is a victim, regardless of whether some disturbing revelations from her past are true or are in any way connected to what happened to her.
It’s a strong and emotional statement.
My essays capture the questions and doubts pretty much everyone seemed to be experiencing, but it was important to me that I maintained my focus on Sherri as a victim. And while I’ve done the doubter’s dance throughout this series, I haven’t wavered one little bit from that stance.
Not because I know something you don’t, but because I was hopeful I was wrong, and I still am.
I’m no longer interested in debate or discussion, just truth — and for me, I’ve been really rethinking some key elements in this case and am wondering just how much what we don’t know has been overshadowed and swayed by what we feel we do know.
I’ll share an example, but back to the quotes first.
In Part Two, I demonstrate how easy it is to victimize a victim, and everyone involved, based on a measly handful of regurgitated bird food:
What if we’ve gathered together a bunch of soggy bread crumbs, also known as unsubstantiated rumors, and turned them into apple pie?
And then I feel compelled to repeat my baseline:
There is one perspective I’m sticking to, one golden grail in this weird missing persons case that has become my Ground Zero, and although I’m not naive, I’m not a Scooby-dum (the preferred spelling), I am holding out hope for Sherri Papini — and therefore I choose to believe, until proven otherwise, that she was brutalized, she was victimized, and she may be one very frightened survivor.
The gears shift a bit in Part Three, where I summarize this case yet again, but through yet a slightly different lens — and then I glance at a calendar and wonder when we’re going to hear from Sheriff Bosenko. I also turn my own words on myself and ponder the possibility that I may have joined the ranks of the lemmings and crossed some ethical lines.
I’m mostly just a dog, frog and piano blogger, not an armchair sleuth or a journalist, and I refuse to stand under an Umbrella of Shame and cast aspersions and twirl my nipple tassels for some quick cash and page views. I want to know the truth as much as you do, but I don’t want to participate in a witch hunt and throw unsubstantiated mud anymore at people I don’t know.
Nothing I’ve written thus far in any of my essays has been particularly enlightening, but then again neither has anything else, anywhere else. And I know that’s perplexing. You’d think someone, somewhere would be able to come up with something new to discuss, but for the last few months it’s pretty much been a cycle of rinse and repeat.
And rinse and repeat, and rinse and repeat. Yawn.
And what do people do when they keep being shown the same episode of a television series that just doesn’t seem to end? They go get some popcorn, and then sit on their head and watch it again. Maybe this time they’ll see something fresh and revelatory that they can go blabber about on Reddit.
THIS IS WHERE you may want to sit forward a bit in your seat, and listen. Can you do that for me?
You’ve read this far, so you may as well loosen the lug nuts a bit on what you think really happened to Sherri Papini, and just consider, for two seconds, which is better than nothing, the possibility of what I’m about to say.
But first I’m going to let you down easy: I’m not disclosing details, not until the Sheriff makes an announcement and I can discuss this from the perspective of facts. It doesn’t matter, though. My faith is guiding me on this one — haha, just kidding about that link, although I am a Christian — and I’m trusting that at least some of you are open to hearing something fresh and revelatory from the perspective of someone who feels Sherri was indeed abducted.
And a quick reminder, because I know it’s needed: a victim in a crime isn’t any less a victim when unsavory details about who they are, and their past, are unearthed. That’s hard to swallow, but I’m not your physician. You’re going to have to figure out how to process that on your own.
So, then, here it is.
There’s something about this case that has been nagging me, three somethings to be specific, except I’m not being specific, and please don’t send me an email asking for details.
I’m going to elaborate on one of them.
About a week ago, I woke up in the early hours of the morning, when it was still dark but vaguely almost sunrise. I was emerging from a dream I didn’t understand, when I pushed up against the weight of the dogs and cats packed all around me and sat upright in bed.
“What if she was telling the truth?” I said to myself.
It was really as simple as that — and it was without anything to justify what I was feeling. No source, no insider information, no nothing. It was just me, an assortment of animals, a cold room, and this thought that was telling me to reconsider something that had been portrayed in the media as truth.
As in, here’s the truth of what really happened with this particular detail of the case, and here’s what Sherri and her family were wanting us to believe.
This may seem typical of the entire case, and it kind of is. Here’s what we’re saying really happened, and here’s what they’re saying really happened. But with this particular detail, it just doesn’t make sense that what was revealed in an interview is accurate. For the life of me, I can’t come up with anything that would support the evidence we were shown, and the determination that was made, as actual truth.
In other words, it’s possible Sherri wasn’t lying, and if I’m right and she was telling the truth — and this particular detail is kind of a big deal to the case — then what does that say about the other big deal details of her case?
If you’re struggling to understand the nuances of what I’m suggesting, just trust I’m having an even harder time putting this into words.
And if you think it’s dumb I’m holding back and being vague, I’m okay with that. As it turns out, I don’t do so well when I’m trying to engage people in a focused and intelligent discussion, and mean people start drooling from their fangs and call me names and only want to hear what they want to hear, thereby squandering any effort at exploring the possibility that some of our assumptions may in fact have been completely wrong.
And boy would it hurt to be wrong, right?
We deserve to know what really happened to Sherri Papini. But regardless of the outcome of this case, Sherri also deserves something from us, and that’s compassion, no matter what, and an open mind — and from where I’m sitting, maybe even an apology.
Here’s the roundup of essays in this series, for easy reference:
And on that note, I bid you farewell until next time.