In 1998, Tera Smith, 16, went for a jog in the community of Redding, Calif., and vanished; she was never seen again.
On Nov. 2, Papini disappeared after going for a jog. Her husband realized she was missing after she failed to pick up their children from daycare. While searching for the 34-year-old, Keith Papini found her phone a short distance from their home, along with her headphones entangled with pieces of her hair.
Three weeks later, Papini was dumped by the side of a highway. She had been beaten, branded, and her hair was cut off. She said she had been abducted at gunpoint and held by two Spanish-speaking women.
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The Papinis and Smith all attended the same school, Central Valley High School. Pictures of Papini and Smith show a resemblance between the pair. The similarities have prompted speculation the cases are linked.
“For them to be so closely related in that we all went to high school with them, and they look like each other, it’s all very strange,” Sherri Papini’s sister, Sheila Koester said to The Sacramento Bee, after Papini’s disappearance.
Even a local police sheriff who worked on Smith’s case agreed the women, “Could probably pass for sisters.”
The parallels had the community talking.
“They look similar and the circumstances are very similar. That was the last one people were scared over,” said local business owner Lianne Bowman.
WATCH: Police describe kidnapping victim Sherri Papini’s condition when found
In the days following Papini’s disappearance, husband Keith, who was quickly ruled out as a suspect in his wife’s disappearance, reached out to the Smith family. Tera’s father, Terry Smith, provided Papini advice on how to deal with law enforcement during the stressful time.
“I didn’t have a lot of comfort to offer him. How do you tell somebody a few days after their wife’s gone missing that she’s probably gone for good?” Smith told the Daily Mail.
Smith’s disappearance does have an element different from Papinis; the teen had a relationship with an older married man, who said he saw her briefly the night she disappeared. Police investigated the link, but the man was never arrested or charged in Smith’s case.
Papini’s case has perplexed authorities — there was no ransom demand, and the families of Sherri and her husband are not of notable wealth. Sherri is a stay-at-home mother, her husband an employee at Best Buy.
Authorities have said they have no reason to disbelieve Papini’s details surrounding the abduction.
The Papinis have since reportedly left their home and community to stay with family.