Case of Missing California Mom Brings Back Memories of Teenage Jogger Who Disappeared in 1998

Investigators recall the 1998 disappearance of a 16-year-old jogger.

— -- As the investigation continues into the alleged kidnapping and torture of a California mother of two, officials have drawn comparisons to another young woman's unsolved disappearance from back in 1998.

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko told ABC News that when Sherri Papini was abducted, they hoped it wouldn't turn into another cold case.

"It was on the investigators' minds. In fact, there is a resemblance of Tera Smith and Mrs. Papini, which made it maybe even a little bit more eerie," Bosenko said.

Both were out jogging in the city of Redding in northern California when they mysteriously vanished.

Papini, the 34-year-old mother of two, and Smith, who was just 16 at the time of her disappearance in 1998, shared similar physical traits including their blonde hair.

The two women were also high school classmates in the 1990s and even further back, when Papini was in fifth grade, she auditioned for the same role as Tera's sister in a school play.

Unlike the Papini case, in which Sherri was released three weeks after her abduction, the Smith family never saw Tera again.

On Thanksgiving, Papini's husband Keith received a phone call with his wife screaming on the other end. He raced to the hospital where she was taken, over two hours away. He said at first he was not allowed in to see her, but when they let him in, he raced to her bedside.

"I -- I just ran past everybody and I, you know, threw open the curtain and she was there in -- in a bed. And her poor face," Keith Papini told ABC News in an interview last week. "And I just hugged her. I just held her. I felt like I hugged her for, like, 20 minutes.” Sherri was reunited with her family, an outcome the Smith family had desperately hoped for.

Tera's father, Terry Smith, told ABC News that the Papini case brought up a lot of emotions for his family when they first heard that she had vanished.

"It brought back a lot of the memory of those initial days,” he said.

Smith explained that he suspected foul play from the beginning when his daughter went missing. "We've known since the very first night," he said.

While no one was ever named a suspect in Tera's disappearance, due to lack of evidence, her father said he believes a local man is responsible. The man has never been charged and continues to live in Redding.

Smith said that Keith Papini sought out his guidance as Papini grappled with his family's harrowing ordeal.

"He wanted to know just how to get by day to day and then also dealings with law enforcement,” Smith said.

Papini has what he calls an “A Team” composed of friends who have formed what they call a “war room” and run a shadow operation to find Sherri Papini’s alleged abductors. Authorities continue to track down leads in the case. No arrests have been made.

Investigators told ABC News that although there are similarities between Tera Smith and Sherri Papini’s disappearances, the two cases right now are not related.

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