A private investigator and veteran human trafficking expert believes California mom Sherri Papini‘s case has the hallmarks of sex trafficking.
In a sit-down with The Today Show, Bill Garcia, who was hired by Papini’s family during the 22 days she was missing, told the show, “I suspect based in the types of injuries Sherri incurred, the beatings, the broken nose, the cut hair, especially the chains and the branding, indicate that most likely it was one of these sex trafficking groups.”
Garcia is not involved with the current police investigation, according to The Today Show.
When asked at a Wednesday press conference if Papini’s abduction might be related to a cartel or a sex trafficking operation, Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said, according to CBS, “We do not have specific information if it was related to a cartel or human trafficking.”
Papini vanished while out for a jog on Nov. 2. The mom-of-two was found around 4:30 a.m. Thanksgiving Day on the side of a Yolo County road — about 150 miles south of her Redding home.
Papini told investigators the women who abducted her were Hispanic, armed and driving a dark SUV.
“There is a lot still unknown about her assailants,” said Bosenko at the Wednesday afternoon press conference.
Bosenko said Papini’s alleged abductors had sometimes covered her face and had concealed their faces as well during her three-week ordeal.
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which people use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims and make them engage in commercial sex acts or labor services against their will, according to The National Human Trafficking Hotline.
In a sit-down with ABC’s 20/20, Papini’s husband, Keith, said Papini’s captors pushed her out of a vehicle with a chain around her waist and a bag over her head on the day of her release.
They left her on the side of a road, badly beaten and bruised, her hair shaved off and her body branded, he said.
“She screamed so much, she’s coughing up blood from the screaming trying to get somebody to stop,” Keith Papini said.
“And again, just another sign of how my wife is, she’s so wonderful. She’s saying, ‘Well, maybe people aren’t stopping because I have a chain that looks like I broke out of prison,’ so she tried to tuck in her chain under her clothes.”