Sherri Papini Case Eerily Similar to Cold Case from 18 Years Ago

The case of an 18-year-old who disappeared 18 years ago is quite similar to that of a California mother of two who was abducted for three weeks before she was found beside an interstate highway, People magazine reported.

On Aug. 22, 1998, then-16-year-old Tera Smith, a high school student in Redding, California, left home to go jogging—only to never be seen again.

Smith was a schoolmate of Sherri Papini, the aforementioned mother who went missing last month. She also went jogging on Nov. 2 near Redding—about two miles from where Smith vanished. Sherri was found on Thanksgiving Day—beaten, branded, and emaciated. 

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko told People that despite the similarities, investigators have “not developed any evidence the two cases are linked.”

Bosenko, however, in separate comments to ABC News, said that he hoped Sherri’s case wouldn’t turn into another unsolved mystery.

“It was on the investigators’ minds. In fact, there is a resemblance of Tera Smith and Mrs. Papini, which made it maybe even a little bit more eerie,” Bosenko told the network.

(Shasta County Sheriff's Office)
(Shasta County Sheriff’s Office)

Papini’s husband, Keith, asked Smith’s father, Terry Smith, for advice.

“Keith came to me, and we spoke for about an hour,” the father of the missing girl told the magazine. “I just told him to stay strong for his kids and not assume law enforcement has the answers and to push them.

“It was obvious Keith was torn up,” Smith said. “And I believe he was confident he’d get his wife back.”

He told ABC that Papini’s case brought back old memories and strong emotions. “It brought back a lot of the memory of those initial days,” Smith said.

Smith believes that a local man who was Tera’s romantic interest may have been responsible for her disappearance. He said on the night of her disappearance, she had plans to meet with the 29-year-old martial arts instructor, Charles Troy Zink, to end their relationship. Zink, a felon who served 300 days in jail for rape, “is a menace, a screwed-up guy,” Terry told People.

A "missing" sign for Mountain Gate, Calif., resident Sherri Papini, 34, is placed along side Sunrise Drive, near the location where the mom of two is believed to have gone missing while on a afternoon jog on Nov. 2. (Andrew Seng/The Sacramento Bee via AP, File)
A “missing” sign for Mountain Gate, Calif., resident Sherri Papini, 34, is placed along side Sunrise Drive, near the location where the mom of two is believed to have gone missing while on a afternoon jog on Nov. 2. (Andrew Seng/The Sacramento Bee via AP, File)

An unmailed letter found in Tera’s room after she disappeared prompted his theories about Zink.

“She tells him in the letter she knows she made a huge mistake, she never should have gotten involved with him, that she didn’t want to leave this life and hang her head in shame,” Terry told the publication. “This letter was never delivered, and rather than give him the letter we believe she wanted to confront him in person to break it off.”

On the night of the disappearance, he went to Zink’s house after Tera didn’t return. Zink arrived at 11:30 p.m. “Zink is an avid four-wheeler guy, he knows the back roads. He had five and a half hours to get rid of the evidence, and he’s been smart enough to keep his mouth shut,” Terry said.

Police, however, were unable to move ahead in the case.

“It is heartbreaking and very frustrating,” said Smith, MailOnline reported. “The guy still lives in Redding. Almost 20 years have passed and he has gotten more comfortable, changed his name and thinks that people have forgotten. We haven’t forgotten.”

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