Society

Sherri Papini Case Eerily Similar To Friend's Vanishing

| by Denise Recalde

The case of abducted California woman Sherri Papini, who was reportedly held captive for three weeks in November, shares striking similarities with the case of a high school classmate who vanished in 1998 while jogging near the very same trail from which Papini was kidnapped. 

Blonde and pretty, the two women -- Papini and Tera Lynn Smith -- had both disappeared while jogging along the Old Oregon Trail in the rural town of Redding, about 160 miles north of Sacramento. But unlike Papini, Smith was never found. 

“In many ways [the cases] are very similar,” explained Terry Smith, father of Tera Lynn Smith. “They are two, good looking blonde girls [that] were supposedly randomly picked up on the side of the road jogging,” he said, the Daily Mail reports.

Tera was 16 years old when she vanished and was a high school friend of Papini -- a 34-year-old mother of two children who disappeared on Nov. 2. The two had attended Central Valley High School. 

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Sherri's husband, Keith, talked to the Smiths in the days following his wife's disappearance to ask for advice. 

"Keith came over for a while on the second or third day after Sherri went missing," Smith said. "We didn’t know him at all until this happened, but we knew Sherri through her friendship with our daughters.

"Keith came to ask our advice and tap in to our experience, find out what we’d do differently, if we were happy with the way law enforcement had handled our case."

When Terry found out Sherri had been found alive, Terry stated his family was both sad and happy. 

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"Yes we [were] thrilled and so happy for the Papini family, we don’t want to detract from that at all," he explained. "[But] the fact that after the initial emotion and elation and happiness for her being found, we admit, we had those feelings of, 'Too bad ours didn’t turn out that way' But we’re so grateful that Sherri’s back."

Tera's martial arts instructor, Troy Zink, was the main suspect in Tera's disappearance and was the last person to see the teenager alive, Australian Women's Weekly reports. 

Zink reportedly informed police the two had argued shortly before she vanished. He allegedly claimed to have dropped her off at an intersection per her request, after which he traveled to an unfrequented place to pray before returning to his home at 11:30 that late evening. 

Despite being the primary suspect, Zink, now 48, was never charged due to lack of evidentiary ties to the disappearance. Tera's body has never been found. 

Law enforcement officials are still investigating the Papini case to find out who had abducted her and do not believe there is a connection between the two cases.

Sources: Daily Mail, Australian Women's Weekly / Photo credit: Papinis via Record Searchlight

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