Sherri Papini's Ex-Husband Offered Kids to Change Last Name So They Wouldn't Be Identified with Notorious Mom (Exclusive)

Sherri Papini's kidnapping case propelled her and her family into the national spotlight

The Papini family
The Papini family

In 2016, Sherri Papini faked an elaborate kidnapping. First, she went missing for 22 days, and when she was found on Thanksgiving Day, she claimed two Hispanic women abducted her while she was jogging near her Redding, Calif., home.

Nearly six years later, Sherri was arrested in connection with the kidnapping hoax after investigators discovered that she willingly stayed at an ex-boyfriend's home for the 22 days she was missing. Sherri pleaded guilty to felony charges of lying to law enforcement and mail fraud in April 2022.

Her kidnapping case — and subsequent charges — propelled her and her family, including her two small children and her husband at the time Keith Papini, into the national spotlight.

Courtesy Keith Papini Sherri and Keith Papini before the kidnapping hoax
Courtesy Keith Papini Sherri and Keith Papini before the kidnapping hoax

Days after Sherri's plea deal, Keith filed for divorce and now has sole custody of their two children, who are now 9 and 11 years old.

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After Sherri's hoax made national news, Keith debated changing his children's last name and even gave them a list of last names to look through. But his children were skeptical.

"My son basically said, 'Is this about mom?' And I said, 'Well, maybe,' and he goes, 'Well, I don't think we should have to change our last name because of mom's mistakes,'" Keith tells PEOPLE. "Him saying that just kind of hit me like, 'Oh wow, this kid is ... He's right.' But again, as a parent, you think about your children and you know that last name is very unique, and it's forever going to be out there. But at this time, anyways, they both are happy kids. They're very happy kids, and they're thriving right now."

Keith spoke out in this week's issue of PEOPLE. He also speaks about his ordeal in Perfect Wife: The Mysterious Disappearance of Sherri Papini, a new three-part documentary series now streaming on Hulu.

For more on the how Sherri Papini's hoax kidnapping, subscribe now to PEOPLE, or pick up this week's issue, on newsstands today.

Related: Keith Papini Says Ex-Wife Sherri Lied to Him About Her Faked Kidnapping and Torture for 6 Years: 'I'll Never Know the Truth' (Exclusive)

Sherri was sentenced to 18 months in prison, and was released early in 2023. She also was ordered to pay more than $300,000 in restitution to multiple law enforcement associations. She now sees her children once a month during supervised visits.

<p>Rich Pedroncelli/AP</p> Sherri Papini on April 13, 2022

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Sherri Papini on April 13, 2022

To this day, Keith is still grappling with the trauma that Sherri inflicted on their children over the years.

"A lot of their childhood years were, in my opinion, stolen from them," Keith says. "So my biggest goal is giving them a happy and healthy life and surrounding them with loving people. And a lot of those conversations that I've had to have, no parents should ever have to have with their kids."

Related: New Docuseries Goes Inside Sherri Papini's Kidnapping Hoax: 'Minds Absolutely Blown'

Keith Papini tells his story in Perfect Wife: The Mysterious Disappearance of Sherri Papini, a new three-part documentary series streaming on Hulu on June 20.

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Read the original article on People.