A Lifetime thriller, “Deception: The Disappearance of Sherri Papini,” directed by Marta Borowski, blurs the lines between truth and fiction. Sherri Papini, the seemingly perfect wife and mother, orchestrated an elaborate hoax—her own kidnapping. But this wasn’t her first brush with deception. News outlets reported that Sherri claimed PTSD as a reason for her actions, but whispers swirled that she’d gotten away with similar schemes before.

Spoilers Ahead

Hoax: The Kidnapping of Sherri Papini (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

The film starts with Sherri Papini waving a white cloth just beside a highway, screaming for help. A car stops, and the woman driving the car identifies Sherri Papini and calls the police. Right after that, we go three weeks back when Sherri is preparing herself for her daughter’s birthday. Sherri is very much loved by her community. They all admire her dressing sense and how she organizes everything so beautifully. However, her relationship with her husband, Keith, is reaching an edge lately.

During the party, there is a small incident. But Sherri manages to act sharply, saving the day without anyone getting hurt. Right after the party, Sherry remains anxious as Keith tells her to come out from the incident because the party was overall a success. Sherri and Keith soon indulge in an argument. Later that night, Keith apologizes to Sherri for behaving as such. A struggle is seen between the couple regarding financial issues since they have two kids. However, Keith tells Sherri she does not need to work and that he will sort everything out.

What happens to Sherri Papini?

Keith asks his manager for a raise. However, his manager refuses the proposal, saying that things are not going well right now. At this moment, Keith receives a text from Sherri. She asks him to come home so that he can make love to his wife. Keith acts excited as he soon leaves work and comes home, only to find that Sherri is not inside the house. He looks everywhere but fails to find Sherri. When he calls her number, there’s no answer.

Keith receives a call from the school saying that Sherri never came to pick up their daughter. Keith asks his mother to take care of the children as he goes out to locate Sherri. He finds Sherri’s last known location on the map. When he reaches there, he sees Sherri’s phone, earphones, and some hair lying on the ground. Keith calls the police. After a thorough investigation, they concluded that this could be a case of abduction.

Just before all of this has happened, we see Sherri prepare herself for running right after texting Keith to come home and make love to her. When she is out there in the woods, running, she looks behind a couple of times, sensing that someone is following her. Soon after, we see Sherri being grabbed by someone. Later, she is inside a car, where the abductor is talking to her very gently. However, in the very next scene, we see her entering a house without protesting.

A Cry for Help or a Calculated Escape?

Hoax: The Kidnapping of Sherri Papini (2023) Movie Ending Explained
A still from Hoax: “The Kidnapping of Sherri Papini” (2023)

Soon, we realize that Sherri has planned the kidnapping with her lover from High School, Chris. She was struggling to share her time and space with her husband, Keith, because he used to hit her at times. Sherri has also shared that she was tortured by her mother when she was little. Knowing all of this, Chris has decided to help her in this staged kidnapping. Chris, however, always had a crush on Sherri. The situation only demanded a slight push from Sherri.

Meanwhile, the news of Sherri’s disappearance becomes the talking point of the whole town as every local newspaper and channel starts showing updates about her disappearance. Sherri even sees her mother. Loretta has come to Keith’s house, and she is taking care of the children. Keith has done an interview in which he cries and begs Sherri to come back home. Sherri is already missing her children, and the plan was to get them to live with her when the right time arrived.

Sherri’s Doubts and a Crucial Mistake

But with Keith crying and knowing that her children need her, Sherri feels very reluctant to go back. She never thought that her mother would be bothered to show up at a time like this. Seeing her actually saying that she wants her daughter to come home softens Sherri’s heart more than ever. Another thing that adds to her dilemma is that Chris has promised her a big place. But now she finds this place very small and claustrophobic.

Sherri has always been a keen observer of details. It is kind of like her in Chris’s house as well when she cleans the bathroom all day just to make it more usable for herself. Anyway, she urges Chris to go outside and complains about the house being very small, not what she had expected. One day, Chris’s cousin, Andrew, accidentally sees her in the place. Later that night, Sherri tells Chris that she wants to go back to her house.

What does Sherri Papini tell Everyone about her Kidnapping?

When Sherri finally arrives home, she behaves very awkwardly with everyone, especially when she starts avoiding the police. She says she will not be talking unless Keith is present. Detective Molly sees that with Keith’s presence, Sherri somehow manages to get away without explaining anything about the kidnapping. However, Sherri does give out a story where she says that she was abducted by two Mexican women. She was left with a brand on her right shoulder that says Exodus.

Detective Molly is confused because, throughout her entire career, she has never seen a woman kidnapping another woman. Because what would be their motive anyway in such a case? So, as time progresses, and with multiple questions, Detective Molly learns that Sherri’s story does not add up. One time, she said that she was not allowed to use the toilet. But she says that sometimes the women let her use the bathroom for showers. When Molly asks for more details about the incidents, Sherri manages to say that since it is a traumatic phase of her life, she does not remember all of it.

How does Detective Molly find out about Sherri’s Lie?

Hoax: The Kidnapping of Sherri Papini (2023) Movie Ending Explained
Another still from “Hoax: The Kidnapping of Sherri Papini” (2023)

One day, Sherri’s ex-husband, David Dreyfus, comes to talk to Detective Molly. He has seen the news about how crowdfunding was established in order to find Sherri Papini, along with all the other news. Hence, he has decided to share news from the past with Molly. He says that his marriage with Sherri was a lie. She just wanted his medical insurance, and since they were friends, he agreed to this. But, when he asked why she would need his medical insurance, she lied multiple times, and Molly takes the point from here that, with Sherri Papini, nothing can be trusted that easily.

Soon after, Andrew comes and says to Molly that he has seen Sherri with Chris. When Molly goes to interrogate Chris about this, well, that’s basically the end of the Sherri Papini saga. Chris tells everything he knows since Sherri has shown signs that she is never going to come back and stay with him. Chris tells Molly how Sherri used to tell her about Keith beating her up, along with other lies. After gathering all the data, Molly finally calls Sherri and shows her all the evidence, finally pointing out the ‘Hoax’ she has created by kidnapping herself.

Hoax: The Kidnapping of Sherri Papini (2023) Movie Ending Explained:

What Happens to Sherri Papini?

Sherri is convicted of creating a hoax about her kidnapping and wasting so much of people’s time, resources, and money. As soon as Keith learns the truth, he files for divorce while making sure that he gets custody of the children. Detective Molly even shows Sherri the police report from the past where her mother complained about Sherri torturing herself during her childhood days. This proves that Sherri has always been lying about her mother. Moreover, Keith has never laid a hand on her. Everything around Sherri was a lie, and she tried to make people believe it.

To make the kidnapping believable, as confessed by Chris, Sherri asked him to hit her badly so that everyone would know she was brutally tortured. She even forced him into branding her on her right shoulder. At the end of the film, we see Sherri Papini sentenced to 18 months in prison and 3 years of supervised probation once released from jail. She is even asked to pay more than 30,000 dollars in restitution for all the lies she has told and for which many had to suffer, especially Keith and her children.

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Sherri’s actions are still a topic of discussion in real life because some say she did it for money. Some believe that she has perhaps been a victim of assault since childhood, which results in creating her own world filled with lies. Sherri’s anxiety has always been taken care of by Keith. The evidence the detective found against her is enough to understand that she has been lying her whole life.

Sherri’s mother’s police complaint and David and Chris’s confessions all point toward two things for sure: one is that Sherri had always been a victim of mental illness, which required more attention when she was younger. The other one is that Sherri is just a criminal who does not want to comply with how others are affected by her actions. But, with the evidence in hand, it is safe to say that Sherri Papini has a disturbing mind that needs to be studied further with the resources we have these days. It is a very, very interesting mind, for sure.


Hoax: The Kidnapping of Sherri Papini (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
The Cast of Hoax: The Kidnapping of Sherri Papini (2023) Movie: Jaime King, Matt Hamilton, Josh Collins
Hoax: The Kidnapping of Sherri Papini (2023) Movie Genre: Drama | Runtime: 1h 30m
Where to watch Hoax: The Kidnapping of Sherri Papini

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