MOUNTAIN GATE (AP) — The family of a Northern California mother of two who went missing while jogging is holding out hope she will be found alive.
Sherri Papini, 34, has been missing since she went for a jog Nov. 2 in the tiny town of Mountain Gate in Shasta County, a case some say resembles the 1998 unsolved disappearance of a teenager in a nearby town, the Sacramento Bee reported Saturday.
Her husband, Keith Papini, reported her missing when he came home from work and found that she hadn’t picked up their two children from daycare. Her cell phone and headphones were found near where she was reported missing, officials said.
Without a body or a suspect, investigators homed in on those closest to her — namely her husband.
The Sheriff’s Office announced last week that he had passed the lie-detector test, and that they confirmed his story that he was at work when she went missing.
“It appears he’s telling us the truth,” said Sheriff Tom Bosenko. “Generally, you can’t trick a polygraph.”
Many are wondering if the case is connected to the 1998 disappearance in nearby Shasta Lake of a teenage girl who resembles her.
Like Papini, Tera Smith, a blond 16-year-old Central Valley High School homecoming princess, was wearing running clothes the last time she was seen. Her body was never found.
In Smith’s case, detectives zeroed in on a possible suspect though they never made an arrest. Smith’s martial arts instructor, a man with a prior rape conviction, told investigators he dropped her off on the night she disappeared a few minutes’ drive from where Papini’s cellphone and earphones were found.
The similarities prompted Keith Papini to reach out to Tera Smith’s father, Terry Smith, for his advice.
“I didn’t have a lot of comfort to offer him. I’m not real confident that anything’s going to come out of it, but how do you tell somebody five days after their wife’s gone missing that she’s probably gone for good?”
Sheila Koester, Sherri Papini’s sister, also knew Smith, and the teen’s disappearance has been on her mind.
“For them to be so closely related in that we all went to high school with them, and they look like each other, it’s all very strange,” she said.
Koester believes her sister’s disappearance will end differently than Smith’s.
“We feel that she’s going to walk through the door at any time,” Koester said.