SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — In tears, Sherri Papini faced a federal judge virtually Monday morning as she pleaded guilty to making up her kidnapping back in 2016.

“It’s been 5 1/2 years,” said Captain Brian Jackson, with the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office.

Jackson was the sergeant in charge of the Major Crimes Unit at the sheriff’s office at the time of Papini’s case. The mother of two went missing after going for a jog near her Redding home in November 2016.

She was found three weeks later, injured along Interstate 5 in Yolo County. She claimed she had been kidnapped by two Hispanic women.

But in 2020, Captain Jackson and his team found evidence to prove it was all fake.

“There was no acknowledgment or admission of anything. It was just complete denial and shut down,” Jackson recalled.

Papini pleaded guilty to lying to a federal officer and mail fraud, stemming from her requests to receive victim’s compensation. Papini and her attorney appeared in the courtroom through video call.

During the hearing, Judge William Shubb asked her if she was ever kidnapped —She replied, “No.” It’s a response Jackson said is a move in the right direction.

“I think that was a good step. That was a good move on the courts,” Jackson said.

At one point, Judge Shubb asked Papini how she was feeling. In tears, she said she was sorry and very sad.

“I have empathy for her. It’s a horrible situation for her to be in,” Jackson said.

But at the same time, Jackson said he’s glad Papini is finally taking responsibility for what she did.

“We’re glad today’s here. We’re glad she pled guilty. It’s the noble thing for her to do, versus putting us through a jury trial,” Jackson said.

Papini faces up to 25 years in prison. She will be sentenced on July 11.