The ex-boyfriend who hid California 'super mom' Sherri Papini for 22 days is James Reyes, 37, DailyMail.com can disclose.
James Reyes, 37, is the ex-boyfriend who hid California 'super mom' Sherri Papini for 22 days
Papini, 39, was arrested on Thursday night on suspicion of staging her 2016 kidnapping. It was a case that gripped America - a healthy young mother vanishing after going out for a run near her suburban home in Redding, California.
She reappeared battered and bruised three weeks later and told police she had been kidnapped by two Hispanic women
Reyes, who used to live in Costa Mesa, California, collected the mom-of-two in a rental car on the day she vanished after spending weeks exchanging flirty texts with her.
Reyes said the pair spent three weeks hiding out at his apartment in Costa Mesa and helped her fabricate the injuries she had when she returned home - including a brand on her shoulder.
Reyes also admitted to dropping Papini off by the roadside in Woodland when her twisted plot came to an end.
Male DNA found on Papini's underwear led cops to Reyes' father and the 37-year-old confessed to his role in the deception when confronted.
Athletic store worker Reyes told police that he believed Papini to be in an abusive relationship and drove to her home town of Redding to pick her up after she asked for help to get away.
Sherri Papini with her husband Keith. Her ex-boyfriend told police she convinced him that Keith was abusing her and that she wanted help to get away from him so convinced the ex-boyfriend to pick her up
Athletic store worker Reyes told police that he believed Papini to be in an abusive relationship and drove to her home town of Redding to pick her up after she asked for help to get away
Reyes said the pair spent three weeks hiding out at his apartment in Costa Mesa and helped her fabricate the injuries she had when she returned home
According to the indictment, Reyes told police that Papini caused self-inflicted injuries while staying with him, including hitting herself to create bruises and burning herself on her arms.
Reyes even admitted to helping her create some of the injuries, although he says he never laid his hands on her directly. For example, she told him to shoot her in the leg with a pellet gun.
He said he did not help Papini burn her arm. 'That was self-inflicted. I didn't burn anything on her arm there.'
He went as far as to say he was confused by Papini injuring herself and told police, 'There's not too many people that come up and say hurt me. I'm not physical ever with women, I mean I just don't.'
Reyes told police that Papini caused self-inflicted injuries while staying with him, including hitting herself to create bruises and burning herself on her arms
According to the arrest affidavit, Papini confessed to making up her story after being confronted with Reyes' testimony - and admitted to having multiple affairs during her marriage to Best Buy employee Keith
Papini did not start creating injuries on herself until close to the time she decided to leave Reyes and go back home, the indictment said, adding that she had initially planned to stay with him for a longer period of time.
At one point, Papini told Reyes to order a wood burning tool from Hobby Lobby to brand her, using cash to make the purchase.
He said Papini was aware of the news stories about her disappearance by this point and did not want people to see her, so he went to Hobby Lobby alone.
PAPINI AND REYES: MORE THAN 'GOOD FRIENDS'
According to the indictment, Reyes explained that Papini was 'a good friend' and she had asked him for help. She told him that her husband was beating and raping her and she was trying to escape.
She told her ex that she had filed police reports, but the police were not doing anything to stop her husband's abuse.
Reyes said he and Sherri has known each other since they were 13 or 14 years old and had a long history together as friends.
The two also had a romantic relationship and had previously been engaged.
Reyes said Sherri reached out to him 'out of the blue,' and that they had not spoken in a long time because 'she got married, she had kids.'
Sometime in 2015, he was cleaning his house and came across a box of old photos and personal items that belonged to PAPINI from when they were in a relationship together.
He sent the box to Papini's parents, and then called her parents to let them know the box was coming.
Reyes isn't sure if that was what prompted her to reach out to him. She called him at work and said she had a plan to run away to him, and that she had been saving some of her cash and planned to send some money for her to have when she was with him.
'She kind of laid out the situation.' he told authorities.
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Reyes described the burning tool as a small plug-in similar in size to an electric tooth brush with letters that snapped into the top of it.
Papini sat on the floor next to the tool and pulled her shirt up so he could make the brand with the phrase that she wanted. Reyes said he could not remember the phrase but that it was something meaningful.
The tool was so hot it glowed red, but Papini did not complain about the pain when he branded her right shoulder.
According to the indictment, during the period of her disappearance Panini never left Reyes' residence and asked him to pick up clothes for her to wear. He purchased sweats, socks and t-shirts from Target, TJ Maxx, or Ross.
Prosecutors charged Sherri Papini, 39, (pictured) for lying to federal agents about being kidnapped and defrauding the state's victim compensation board of $30,000
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne in Gone Girl, Amy's unwitting husband. Right, Sherri Papini and her husband Keith on their wedding day
The area where Sherri Papini was found near the I-5 freeway outside of Yolo, California
Papini told her ex-boyfriend to pick her up on November 2 from her home in Redding, California. She then sat in the backseat, lying down, while he drove seven hours south to Costa Mesa. For two weeks, they stayed in his apartment. She occupied the bedroom and he slept on the couch, according to prosecutors. He then drove her home
She also asked him to board up the windows.
During the period of her disappearance, Papini never left Reyes' two-bedroom apartment. He continued to go to work every day.
Papini selected the room she wanted to stay in. He believed she purposefully selected the room with 'less exposure.'
Reyes told investigators that it might sound 'bland,' but they really just 'talked,' 'hung out,' and 'ate food,' but they did not go anywhere.
Reyes said he believed Papini was purposefully trying to lose weight while she was staying with him.
'She was not eating as much as she would...she would just minimize what she was eating,' he said, adding that she would only eat half of a banana in an attempt to appear emaciated.
Reyes said he came home one day to see Papini had chopped her hair off.
He toldinvestigators that it might sound 'bland,' but they really just 'talked,' 'hung out' all day during the time.
Papini's disappearance in November 2016 sparked a nationwide manhunt, with husband Keith making a series of emotional appeals for her to come home.
Three weeks after she vanished, the 39-year-old was discovered wandering down a road in Woodside, California, with a broken nose and her long blond hair hacked off.
She told police that she had been kidnapped by two Hispanic women - but her story fell apart when she was arrested and charged with mail fraud for making the whole tale up.
Keith Papini was in tears when he spoke about his wife abduction 20/20.
The 'supermom' seemed to be getting back to normal when she went for pizza with her husband Keith in Redding, California in December, 2017
'THEY PLAYED ANNOYING MEXICAN MUSIC AND FED ME TORTILLAS': PAPINI'S 'LIES' ABOUT CAPTORS SHE CLAIMED WERE HISPANIC WOMEN
The 55-page arrest affidavit reveals some of what Papini told police about the 'Hispanic women' who kidnapped her.
Below are excerpts from that affidavit:
'They would play music loudly. That really annoying Mexican music. And theywould watch TV . . . There was a fireplace, I could smell it. I could hear that sound, you know when you move the handle to open the fireplace. It made like a creaky sound . . . and it wascold. It was always cold. And it seemed like it rained almost every night.'
'I heard birds. I never heard anything else ....... they put the stereo right outsidemy door and . . . played it super loud.'
'Papini said her abductors fed her once a day, maybe rice or tortillas, and Sometimes apples'
Papini claims that two Hispanic women driving an SUV abducted her but covered their faces. These sketches were released of them almost a year after she went missing
'Papini said the women put her in a closet with a bucket with kitty litter in it for her to use as a toilet. She described the closet as containing shelves and a metal pole to which the women hooked a cable and a chain to, with the other end of the chain hooked around her waist. There was enough length on it for Papini to reach the bed, but she could not reach the door. The chain was unmovable because it was bolted into the ceiling. Papini escribed how, when she did not listen to the women, they would lock her in the closet.
'Papini stated that there were boards on the windows of the room she was kept in''
'I tried to get out the first time and that's when she branded me.'
Papini described how her abductors brought a table in, hit her back, and tied her to the table. When they branded Papini, her skin made 'a sizzling popping sound' and it was very painful. Later in this same interview, Papini said her abductors told her that her buyer wanted Papini branded because'
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It was only when he saw the intense media coverage of Papini returning home that he started to panic, he said.
Reyes said he never came forward because he thought that police would approach him if he had done something wrong, so he stayed quiet.
In August 2020, police confronted Papini with the evidence but she continued to deny it and say there is 'no way' it could have been the ex-boyfriend.
She admitted speaking with him over text, as she did with other men, but said it was merely a mistake and nothing criminal.
'When I went out of town for work. I talked with other guys ......... I made a mistake and I talked to other men and I shouldn't have,' she said.
In the five years since she allegedly faked the disappearance, Papini claimed $30,000 from the Victim Compensation Board.
Skepticism about her disappearance came after it was revealed she had previously run away as a teenager.
And according to the Sacramento Bee, uncovered documents from 13 years ago outlined how Papini's mother, Loretta Graeff, called police asking for help after her daughter was allegedly self-harming and trying to blame the wounds on her.
The incident report, filed in December 2003, is just two lines long and reads: 'RP states her 21y/o daughter that was living with her was harming herself and blaming it on the RP.
'RP states female is coming back to live with them and she wants advice.'
The newspaper also found two other incidents involving Papini, where her father and sister both claimed she damaged their property.
In 2000, Richard Graeff said his daughter 'burglarized his residence,' before Sheila Koester, 'alleged her back door had been kicked in and she believed Papini was the suspect', the Bee reported.
In retrospect, 'we are relieved that the community is not endangered by unknown, violent kidnappers,' said Sean Ragan, special agent in charge of the FBI's Sacramento Field Office.
According to the arrest affidavit, Papini confessed to making up her story after being confronted with Reyes' testimony - and admitted to having multiple affairs during her marriage to Best Buy employee Keith.
Papini and her husband Keith spent the $49,000 raised on a GoFundMe page to 'bring her home' to pay off their personal credit cards and contribute to personal expenses, federal prosecutors claimed.
Sherri is now in the Sacramento County Jail, where her attorney says she cannot eat.
During a Zoom court appearance this week attorney Michael Borges said Papini had only been able to eat an apple since she was taken into custody in front of her kids at her home on Thursday.
He said the mother of two - who weighs only 100lbs and is 5ft tall - has food allergies which prevent her from being able to eat anything else.
It is believed she and Keith have separated.