ABC News’ ‘20/20: The Vanishing Act’ focuses on the shocking hoax kidnapping saga of Sherri Papini that began in November 2016. The mother of two suddenly disappeared one afternoon, only to show up about three weeks later. But quickly, the authorities noticed a lot of red flags in her story. They eventually learned that Sherri hadn’t been abducted but was staying with James Reyes, an ex-boyfriend. So, if you’re wondering where he might be today, here’s what we know.
Who is James Reyes?
Sherri Papini suddenly showed up during the early morning hours of November 24, 2016, after being missing for around three weeks. She appeared to be injured and bound at the time. However, the authorities weren’t entirely convinced by her story about being abducted by two Hispanic women keeping her captive, suggesting they would sell her to someone from law enforcement before releasing her. So, they looked closely at Sherri’s life and followed the evidence.
In the time after Sherri was found, the authorities collected her clothing for analysis and found male DNA on it. In September 2019, the police tried a familial DNA search, leading them to a close relative of the person they were looking for. The person was finally identified as James Reyes, an ex-boyfriend of Sherri’s, and they had stayed in touch after breaking up many years prior. On the social media page of James’ brother, the police noticed a table. The description matched the one Sherri talked about when she mentioned being branded by her purported kidnappers.
In June 2020, the police went through James’ trash outside his home to collect DNA, leading to the identification. James was interviewed soon after that, providing a shocking twist to the investigation. He told the police that Sherri wanted to escape her then-husband, Keith Papini, since he was apparently beating and raping her. Since James had known Sherri since they were kids, he tried to help her out. While they talked on their personal cellphones at the beginning, they switched to prepaid phones later.
On November 2, 2016, James had a friend rent a car for him, after which he drove to where he was supposed to pick up Sherri. Once there, she got into the back seat and laid down while he made the several-hour drive back to his home in Costa Mesa, California. Sherri then stayed there, mainly confining herself to the bedroom while James continued his routine. He added that she’d gone as far as to board up the bedroom window because she wanted it to be dark. Moreover, he said he also noticed that Sherri tried to lose weight on purpose by eating small quantities of food.
James further told the police that many of Sherri’s wounds were self-inflicted and that he helped with some of the injuries. She had also asked him to brand her. He added, “I’m like, ‘Oh, this is probably going to hurt.’ I mean, I’ve never done this.” Yet after about three weeks with James, Sherri told him that she missed her kids and wanted to leave. So, like before, he had his friend rent a car and then drove her back. At the time, Sherri disposed of her prepaid phone and had a bag that contained items to bind her wrists and ankles.
Where is James Reyes Today?
James Reyes told the police that he didn’t know anything about the Hispanic women Sherri spoke about, all the while maintaining he didn’t do anything wrong per se. Ultimately, his confession was crucial in getting her to plead guilty, leading to prison time. Since then, James has understandably maintained a low profile. According to his uncle, he didn’t have any trouble with the law in the past and previously used to work at a skate store in Costa Mesa. However, according to the last reports, James is currently living in Nogales, Arizona, alongside his grandfather and a pet dog.