Keith Papini Calls Sherri Papini ‘Extremely Manipulative’ & Reveals Where They Stand Today

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Keith Papini is opening up about ex-wife Sherri Papini’s twisted tale of lies in the three-episode documentary series Perfect Wife: The Mysterious Disappearance of Sherri Papini, premiering June 20. Keith, along with those friends and family close to Sherri, chronicle her 2016 disappearance, her return after 22 days, her claims that she was abducted and abused by her captors, and how they unraveled the hoax she concocted.

As investigators continued to look into Sherri’s alleged kidnapping, they began to notice inconsistencies in her story. More than five years after her disappearance, Sherri was charged with mail fraud and lying to federal agents about being kidnapped. Sherri was never abducted like she claimed and had been staying at a former boyfriend’s home during those 22 days she was “missing.” The injuries she had sustained were actually self-inflicted, including a branding on her right shoulder.

Sherri signed a plea deal in April 2022 and admitted that she orchestrated the kidnapping hoax. That same month, Keith filed for divorce. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined $300,000. In August 2023, Sherri was released from prison.

The poster for 'Perfect Wife: The Mysterious Disappearance of Sherri Papini'

Courtesy of Disney

Keith spoke to TV Insider about his participation in the Hulu documentary series, what his relationship is like with Sherri today, and how their two children are doing in the aftermath of Sherri’s hoax. Below, see our conversation.

Were you always open to participating in this documentary?

Keith Papini: No, I definitely did not want to participate in a documentary for quite some time. I’ve been asked hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times. Things changed after her arrest, and I still had a long period of time where I just did not want to do it. Even in the first initial talks of participation, I didn’t really want to expose my kids and family again to all the media. But then, I started to realize that we’re out there already. I mean, you Google my name, my kids, everything’s on the internet already. Over time, I was able to get past some things. And realistically, it wasn’t until I came in contact with Allison Berkley, and she was just so amazing and really understood my story and wanted to help tell it in a way that really told everybody what the last six years was like. She was more wanting to know about the six years, not necessarily the fake kidnapping and then the arrest, but how was it living with her. I’m telling her the stories, you could tell it really impacted her. Her being a mother of kids, I think she was able to connect with me differently than everybody else, and I was just so comfortable. And that’s why I ultimately chose to have Allison move forward with the project.

Has going through the process of this documentary brought you a sense of closure that you didn’t have before? 

I think a little bit. I’m kind of a rule follower, and then law enforcement the whole time was like, “Don’t talk about this. Don’t talk about that.” Even family members outside of the immediate circle, they’ve never known what I’ve gone through, so it was nice to be able to not only tell family and friends, but the community and the United States. I mean, everybody. Even the world. We’ve gotten so many letters from so many people all over the place about this. So it was nice to say, “You know what? Here’s the truth. This is what really happened. And here’s the amount of deceit and deception and gaslighting that was done to my family over the last six years.”

Do you wish Sherri would have participated in the documentary? 

I don’t know if I wish she would have participated. Her stories and what she still says to this day are just not true. So giving her a platform to spread more lies, I don’t think, is a good decision. I’m sure she’s trying to do that, and I’m sure there’s some media company that might want to do that. In my opinion, it would just be a cautionary tale. You’re taking a big risk to expose this person to the world with more lies quite frankly.

Have you spoken to her about the documentary?

No, I don’t speak to her at all whatsoever. I might see her in the court for our court stuff, but no, I don’t talk to her.

How are your kids doing? Do they know about the documentary?

Kids are doing phenomenal. They’re thriving. My son’s got a 4.0. My daughter doesn’t get letter grades yet, but she’s great, too. They’re thriving in school. The school is such an amazing place for them and a safe haven. They’re both into sports and have a very big social network there at school, and lots of friends and birthday parties. They’re doing wonderful, outstanding. As far as the documentary, they do know I participated in one, but they’re not going to watch it. It’s not age appropriate for them at this time.

Do your kids have relationships with Sherri today? 

Yeah, they speak to her on the phone once a month or every other week. Shortly, it’ll be every week, so let me just say they speak to her every week, and they see her in a professionally supervised visitation once a month.

How has this situation impacted your relationships moving forward and how you trust people close to you?

I would say I’m a really trusting person. I’m very honest. I think when you watch a lot of these videos, I just blurt everything out. I don’t think that’s changed much for me. I do want to see the good in people, and I do believe the core amount of people are honest. As far as relationships, I haven’t really gone into that yet. I haven’t really put myself out there. I’m assuming I’m going to have a few more questions than normal now, but I think more so my family and my friend group really want to probably ask a lot of questions for somebody in the future. But as of right now, I haven’t quite gotten there yet. I really just wanted to focus on the kids.

Did you learn anything new about Sherri while working on this documentary that you didn’t know as her story was unraveling?

I learned so many things. I feel on a weekly basis, I find out something new. I think it’s because people are coming forward. I have groups of people together, whether I’m hanging out with friends or whatnot, and you’ll hear a story from one person’s perspective and quickly be like, “That’s not what she told me,” and it’ll be something entirely different. You can really start to see how she is kind of just playing this chess with everybody, and everybody gets the version or the story that she feels will gain her the most attention or she wants to feel like a victim, or whatever it is. You can really see it play out in real time. I don’t think I’ve gone a month without finding out something new that was going on or what was said.

Do you think you’ll ever get to a place where you forgive her?

I don’t think so. I think if it was just me, I could probably move past that. But, you look at your kids, and not only do you see yourself, but you see Sherri, right? You have to think that, as they get older, Sherri Papini will always be their mother. I think about my mother. I just love my mom so much and that connection [we have] and, of course, my father as well. Knowing that at some point when they’re older, when they really kind of put things together that their mom left them, it’s going to be tough. And just knowing that feeling in the conversations I’ve had to have with my own children that no parent should ever have to talk to their children about, I don’t think I can just be like, “Yeah, it’s okay. Water under the bridge.” Again, if it was just me and she wronged me, I think I could get through it. But the community, friends, family, the amount of lives that were changed, and the ripple effect of her lies and what that caused, I don’t think so at this time, no.

Have you thought about how you’re going to approach her disappearance with your kids when they’re older? 

I haven’t put too much thought [into it] because I think the way I am, I’ll dwell on that, and I’ll start thinking of it too much. Luckily, I’m very fortunate. Both my kids are individually such amazing kids that I think when that time comes, I feel they’ll come to me. We don’t have a lot of secrets between us. We’re very close. I think they’ll come to me, and at that time, I can address everything. I would rather do it that way than constantly thinking when the day comes. It’s almost similar to the documentary. I was worried about telling them. I didn’t know what they were going to say or think. I remember I finally told them because I didn’t want them finding out elsewhere, and I said, “Do you guys have any questions after I get done with my spiel?” I think my daughter just said, “What’s for dinner tonight?” They’re so resilient, and they’re just such amazing kids.

Do you think Sherri will ever get to a point where she tells the truth?

I do not believe so, no. I do believe at some point she will come out and say something. Do I think it’ll be truth? I absolutely do not think it will be the truth. I think it will be another version that she believes sounds the best in her eyes. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but I already accepted that I will never know the reason.

How would you describe your relationship with Sherri today?

It’s really non-existent. That communication we have is setting up phone calls or rescheduling phone calls. It’s not through voice. I don’t talk to her. It’s all messages. There was a time where I thought she might say something to me and explain something to me. There was a time where I wanted that, and I was so hurt. I think Sheila, her sister, was a huge, amazing source for me. We’re still close. She almost made it like, “You need to really cut her out because she’s going to continue this.” She knows that I love her. I mean, this is my wife. Obviously, I was very dedicated. I didn’t want this. I always wanted to be her husband and have our family. I think [Sheila] saw that she would just continue to manipulate me. When I cut Sherri out in the beginning, it was like a weight off my shoulders because everything was like, what is she going to say next? It’s not true, and I always feel like I have to defend myself. It’s just tiresome to do that all the time. So actually, shutting that down has been so much better for me.

How long ago was that? 

That was when I filed for divorce. I found out she was lying, with the amount of information that I needed as her husband, which is probably more than the average person—but again, it was my wife—on 4/11/2022. I would say, right after that [I cut her out], and I filed for divorce a couple days after that.

What do you hope viewers take away from this documentary?

One, that an amazing community came together and did everything they could to help my family. Two, that they see the lengths that Sherri went to create this false hoax that it was real. The levels that she went to and put my kids and myself through for the last six years. The level of dedication that she poured in every single day, all my friends that were affected. We accommodated her every need. We did everything she wanted us to do at all times. I wanted to show that this person is extremely manipulative and that we really did not know. The cops didn’t know. FBI didn’t know. The doctors didn’t know. Of course, there’s doubts. Everybody could throw a doubt out there, but there was never any evidence to support any claim. She’s very talented at her craft.

Perfect Wife: The Mysterious Disappearance of Sherri Papini, Documentary Series Premiere, June 20, Hulu

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