The older sister of a Northern California mother who was missing for three weeks said Friday the return of her sibling made for the best Thanksgiving ever.
The comments by Sheila Koester came as authorities searched for two armed women they believe abducted 34-year-old Sherri Papini on Nov. 2 then released her alongside an interstate early Thursday.
Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko told “Good Morning America” that such releases are rare.
Papini was found near Interstate 5 about 150 miles south of the site where she disappeared while jogging near Redding.
Authorities have released few details about what happened to her.
Koester said she does not know what happened during the three weeks her sister was gone or the details of the police investigation.
She said she reunited with Papini and is giving her space and time with her husband to heal.
“We are very, very thankful and very ecstatic,” Koester, 36, said. “It’s the best Thanksgiving that anyone could ask for.”
Papini was found bound by restraints after she flagged down a driver, Bosenko said. The motorist called authorities, who connected the mother of two to her husband by cellphone.
“She was very emotional to be released and hear her husband’s voice and then a few hours later to be reunited with him,” the sheriff said.
Papini was treated for unspecified injuries and released. Officials said they were not aware of a motive for the kidnapping.
Sandra Oswald, a 29-year-old community organizer in Redding, does not know the Papinis but organized search groups to look for the missing woman. Oswald is a runner, like Papini, and said the incident hit close to home.
“It was just the biggest blessing, not only for the family but for the community that’s been trying to find her,” Oswald said of Papini’s return. “Now, it’s just praying for them and her recovery.”
Investigators have spoken with Papini and hoped to get more information soon in the effort to uncover what happened.
It was not clear if she knew the women she said abducted her, police said.
“Obviously she was emotional and quite upset, but elated to be freed, and so we were able to get some information from her,” Bosenko told “Good Morning America.” ”Then, in the days following this, we will be following up with her.”
Family members previously called her a “super mom” who would never abandon her family. Her husband reported her missing when she failed to pick up their two young children from day care.
Her cellphone and headphones were found near where she was last seen.
“She could drop her phone, but she would never in a million years not pick up our children at the time that she normally would have,” Keith Papini told “Good Morning America” before his wife was found.
Her husband was cleared as a suspect after passing a polygraph test. Before she was found, he said he was “getting very angry and frustrated” and “scared for my wife.”
Police had received more than 400 tips in the case, but Papini’s release was not the result of a reward that was offered, Bosenko said.
“It shows what a community can do when it works together to get the word out,” he said.
The Shasta County sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to calls, messages and emails seeking comment.