One of Sherri’s high school friends, who was a dead ringer for her, was abducted 20 years ago, has never been found, and is believed to have been murdered.
The fact of Tera Smith’s disappearance while jogging in the same area as Sherri Papini so many years ago is probably just a coincidence.
Tera’s family believe they know who her abductor and killer is, but police have insufficient evidence to arrest their suspect. He does not fit the description of the two Hispanic women who Sherri says abducted her.
The California jogger who was kidnapped and held captive for three weeks last month shares eerie similarities with a high school classmate who disappeared nearly two decades ago while running near the very same trail she was abducted on.
“In many ways [the cases] are very similar,” explained Terry Smith, father of Tera Lynn Smith, who is still missing after she vanished without a trace on Aug. 22, 1998.
“They are two, good looking blonde girls [and] were supposedly randomly picked up on the side of the road jogging,” he told the Daily Mail.
Tera, who was 16 when she disappeared, was a high school friend of Sherri Papini, a 34-year-old mother-of-two who was abducted on Nov. 2.
Papini was eventually found on a highway weeks later on Thanksgiving morning — the victim of severe beatings and relentless abuse, cops said.
“Since our situation turned out so badly, I didn’t think she would be back,” Smith said “So we were really surprised and grateful that she was found.”
Smith told the Daily Mail that his daughter and Papini each attended Central Valley High School. Papini was in the same class as Tera’s sister, Kyra, and was a year younger than her, he said.
Both girls vanished while jogging in the rural city of Redding, which is about 160 miles north of Sacramento.
Papini was snatched up at around 2 p.m. local time as she ran along a trail surrounding her home — while Tera disappeared during the early evening hours as she headed to the exact same area, the Mail reports.
Upon first glance, many would’ve thought the girls were sisters — with their matching blue eyes, long blonde hair and tiny build.
The similarities were so close, in fact, that Papini’s husband, Keith, decided to reach out to the Smiths in the days after his wife’s abduction to ask for help.
“Keith came over for a while on the second or third day after Sherri went missing,” Smith said. “We didn’t know him at all until this happened, but we knew Sherri through her friendship with our daughters. Keith came to ask our advice and tap in to our experience, find out what we’d do differently, if we were happy with the way law enforcement had handled our case.”
Smith said the worried husband also called to ask whether he “thought the FBI should get involved.” He told Keith he thought it would be a good idea — adding that he believed he ultimately placed too much trust in local law enforcement when Tera disappeared.
“We were very idle when Tera went missing,” Smith told the Mail. “We just expected them to do everything, they were the professionals and we weren’t, but I do think they made some mistakes and hopefully learned from their mistakes.”
Smith admitted to fearing the worst in the weeks after Papini’s kidnapping.
“I thought from a self-preservation perspective,” he said. “I felt bad because Keith had so much hope and so much confidence that she’d be found, I kind of thought that he might need to accept the possibility that she wouldn’t be coming back and in my mind a very real possibility.
“I didn’t have a lot of comfort to offer him,” Smith added. “How do you tell somebody a few days after their wife’s gone missing that she’s probably gone for good?”
When he found out that Papini had been found alive, Smith said his family was both happy and sad.
“Yes we [were] thrilled and so happy for the Papini family, we don’t want to detract from that at all,” he explained. “[But] the fact that after the initial emotion and elation and happiness for her being found, we admit, we had those feelings of, ‘Too bad ours didn’t turn out that way’ But we’re so grateful that Sherri’s back.”
While the motive of Papini’s abduction is still unclear, Smith said his family believes they know who killed Tera and why.
“We know what happened,” he said, noting how Tera’s then-martial arts instructor, Troy Zink, has been linked to her disappearance.
The married father-of-two had been having an affair with the teen — and she was allegedly trying to end the relationship the night she vanished, her dad said.
The ex-con was never named a suspect, though, due to a lack of sufficient evidence.
”If he’s smart enough to keep his mouth shut for the rest of his life he may never do any time,” Smith said. “It is heartbreaking and very frustrating…Almost 20 years have passed and he has gotten more comfortable, changed his name and thinks that people have forgotten. We haven’t forgotten.”
All of you redditors who’ve been working on pizzagate might think about turning your attention to helping the Smith family obtain closure by putting away her killer.
For everyone else, be grateful you’re not in the same situation as the Smith family.