‘Hoax: The Kidnapping Of Sherri Papini’ Ending Explained & Movie Summary: Is It Based On A True Story?

Directed by Marta Borowski, the film Hoax: The Kidnapping of Sherri Papini is based on real-life events. A woman ensnares others into her trap of lies when she returns home after being kidnapped. The will to seek attention can take people to the extent where they can go to any lengths to garner the limelight. The personality disorder in Sherri in real life has been explored in depth within this movie. Why did Sherri get herself kidnapped? Will she be able to get away with her lies about getting kidnapped? Who helped Sherri in her endeavors? Let’s find out!

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Spoilers Ahead


What Happened After Sherri Went Missing?

Sherri was kidnapped from near her house in Redding, California, while she went out for a short walk. When her husband returned from work, he found out that his wife was missing and that even the kids had not been picked up from school. When the police were informed and they started the search for Sherri, her headphone was found neatly placed on the ground. There were no signs of tears in the device. The police were worried that Sherri had been taken by traffickers who could sell her off (as similar cases were on the rise in Herring). Further investigations also found that Sherri had been talking to a man (flirting with him) and that his number was saved under a woman’s name. It was also found that she was not on good terms with her mother, but the police did not think that these events could in any way be related to her disappearance. Meanwhile, a polygraph test and an interview were conducted with her husband, Keith, where he said that he had been missing Sherri and wanted her back home. Keith left no stone unturned to gather a community and a huge fund to search for Sherri all over the locality. 

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Where Was Sherri Actually Hiding? Why Did She Get Herself Kidnapped?

Later, it was revealed that Sherri had been hiding at her high school sweetheart’s house while keeping an eye on the news of her own missing and kidnapping case. It turns out that she had been manipulating Chris into believing that Keith was an abusive husband and was violent towards her, and she wanted to distance herself from him. She also said that she still had a deep-embedded trauma because of the way her mother used to abuse her as a child. 

After a few days of staying under cover at Chris’ house, she finally got bored and wanted to return home. She manipulated Chris into helping her make her departure look like a kidnapping. She asked Chris to beat her up and burn a mark in her body, saying “exodus”, meaning freed slaves. She did that just to mislead the course of interrogation that she was aware would happen once she returned. Later, when she came back, she tried to mislead the police and Keith about her kidnapping. She said that two Mexican women had kidnapped her and were trying to kill her. She further said that she had placed her headphones in the woods to help her husband find her. 

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Sherri was actually enjoying the attention that she received after her kidnapping and reunion with her family. People around her were more compassionate towards her, and others considered her to be a hero. A lot of interviewers were offering her money to get an exclusive interview on her kidnapping, to which her husband pleaded with her to participate (as they had a lot of loans), but she refused, saying that she was too traumatized to give any interviews. Probably she was scared that her real plan would come out if she gave interviews, because her story of kidnapping was nothing but a lie! 


Why Did Molly Get Suspicious Of Sherri?

Upon further investigation, male DNA was found in Sherri’s underwear (not Keith’s). Each of Sherri’s statements to the police differed every time she was interrogated about her kidnappers. She said that the kidnappers kept her chained in the closet and that they were Mexican. Sometimes she said that she had to excrete in the kitty litter box, and on the other hand, they let her shower sometimes. All her statements were inconsistent and confused the police, and when they cross-questioned her, she said that she was traumatized and didn’t remember half the events. The police were sure that Sherri had been lying to them when David (her ex-husband) came forward to give a statement against her. He said that she was a pathological liar and had lied to him, saying that she needed her medical insurance for frequent medical attention as she repeatedly donated her eggs to get some money. David also handed the police a report from Sherri’s mother, claiming that Sherri had been self-harming to pin it all on her mother. The police further found out that Sherri was a racist and wrote racist posts (stating how proud she was of her white skin) on the internet using pseudonyms. She probably wanted to paint the Hispanic community in a bad light, saying that they had kidnapped her.

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How Did The Truth Come Out?

The police, however, couldn’t arrest Sherri as they had no evidence against her for planning her own kidnapping. However, after 6 months, one of Chris’ cousins went to the police, stating that he had seen Sherri at Chris’ house while authorities had been looking all over for her. The investigating officer, Molly, later approached Chris, and he confessed to having helped Sherri. He stated that they used burner phones to talk, and it was Sherri who had asked him to kidnap her after manipulating him to believe she was in an abusive marriage. 


What Sentence Did Sherri Receive?

After a few days, Sherri was arrested on the charges of befooling the authorities and wasting 150,000 dollars in resources (used to find her). Keith filed for divorce and took away both their kids along with him. Sherri finally accepted her crime during the trial and got a sentence of 18 months in prison and 36 months of supervised probation upon release. She was also to pay more than 300,000 dollars as compensation to the government. In the current times, Sherri Papini (the real-life culprit) is an inmate of the Federal Correctional Institution in Victorville. 

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Final Words

Hopefully, Sherri will learn her lesson in the process of being bound by the legal forces. Her desire to rise to fame and seek attention got her nowhere. Her guilt over having committed the crime after losing her reputation, marriage, and kids is revealed in her conversation with her therapist, where she states that God does not give anyone more than they can handle. Even though Sherri Papini’s story may seem fictitious, she is a real-life fraudster who has lost everything worth living just to rise to a moment of fame. 


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Debjyoti Dey
Debjyoti Dey
Debjyoti’s obsession with creativity and travel fervor has helped her branch out into the entertainment genre. Her love for psychological thrillers helps her get a daily dose of adrenaline. A regular caricature of the films and its characters is what keeps her going!

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