Sherri Papini’s former colleague threw her support behind the California “super mom” accused of staging her own abduction — saying love makes you do “crazy things.”
Speaking to The Post from her home in Redding, Calif., Joyce Travis applauded Papini, even after prosecutors accused her of sparking a three-week manhunt in 2016 while she allegedly hid out with a former boyfriend.
“We are all so quick to judge but everybody makes mistakes,” said Travis, who worked with Papini at a local AT&T store.
“She obviously made a huge mistake but she followed her heart and did what she thought she had to do to be with someone that loved her and she loved back. That’s not an easy thing to find in this world.”
Travis was stunned by the allegations against Papini, who was charged earlier this month with mail fraud and making false statements to law enforcement related to her supposed kidnapping.
But she said she could understand why Papini would’ve risked it all for a shot at love.
“I would probably say to her, ‘You know, you must have felt so much love for this person that you would have to come up with the story,’” Travis said in the interview Friday. “There’s a lot of crazy things you can do with the powerful emotion of love, so for her to be able to do something like this, she must’ve been in love with this person.’”
Papini, 39, of Redding, was busted for her alleged abduction hoax that made headlines around the world in November 2016.
Papini claimed two Hispanic women kidnapped her at gunpoint while she was out for a jog — but prosecutors now say she was lying the entire time and was staying at the house of an ex-boyfriend, James Reyes, some 150 miles away in Southern California. They said there, she allegedly assaulted herself to back up her story.
“I just imagined her running down the road, getting abducted, and her phone being left,” Travis recalled. “I was imagining the worst. I was just so scared and was so worried about her.”
She added, “It’s just mind blowing and shocking to see her in the news again. I kept saying, ‘Oh, my God! No, this can’t be happening!’”
When Papini finally turned up on Thanksgiving morning that year, Travis and other co-workers chipped in to buy her a huge bouquet of flowers. She said Papini’s husband, Keith, personally delivered a thank you note that she has kept in her memory book to this day.
“Her husband made a trip out to my store where I worked to hand it to me personally because he knew that I was the one who backed Sherri and supported her the whole time,” Travis said. “The note she sent is sentimental to me because this was representative of her being alive, that she was found safe and sound. It’s just something that I plan on keeping forever.”
In the 2016 letter, Papini wrote that she wanted to express her gratitude for the “support, love and kindness” that her co-workers showed to her family.
“Thank you for the thoughtful card and beautiful flowers,” said Papini in the handwritten note. “I save them as a reminder of the amazing people and support I have in my life. I will forever be grateful for all of you and look forward to seeing you in person.”
Papini’s abduction tale began to unravel in 2020, when DNA that she had on her body and clothes the day she was found in 2016 led investigators to a former boyfriend.
“Papini told him that her husband was beating and raping her and she was trying to escape,” according to the criminal complaint.
Papini is also accused by federal prosecutors of blowing the $49,070 donated through the “Bring Sherri Home Safe” GoFundMe page on credit card debt and other personal expenses. Authorities said it appears her husband Keith, and an unnamed ex-boyfriend, were at least aware of her ruse.
A former neighbor in Redding who wanted to remain anonymous told The Post that Papini was known as the pretty blonde — and the type to “always want attention.”
Other family friends who helped raise funds for the family back in 2016 refused to comment on Papini’s charges. One former friend, who did not want to be identified, scoffed when asked if he still supported Papini.
“No, we have not talked to her, and have nothing to say about that,” he said.
Travis said she has not communicated with Papini outside of the thank you letter.
She recalled running into Keith while running errands around town.
“Keith said, ‘She’s doing fine. She’s very jumpy because she’s got PTSD and it’s going to take some time for her to come back to normal,’” Travis said.
Papini had never mentioned anything about wanting to leave her marriage or reconnecting with her ex-boyfriend, Travis added.
“She always had only positive things to say when she talked about her family,” she said. “Her husband Keith, he’s so sweet. She never said anything negative about her husband or her family.”