A disturbing new theory has emerged about why California mum Sherri Papini was abducted and then returned to her family.
The mother-of-two has rarely been seen since she was allegedly kidnapped and then returned 22 days later with a strange branding on her skin and after being beaten and starved.
More three months after she was found, it's still unclear who was responsible, although there has been speculation about a possible cult connection and could even have been staged.
But according to US crime show Crime Watch Daily, a source close to the investigation believes those who took Papini may have mistaken her for a much younger woman.
"It was sexual trafficking. I think they saw what appeared to be a young girl and took her for that purpose," the anonymous source said.
Papini was allegedly abducted while taking a routine jog along the Mountain Gate trail near her home in Redding, northern California on November 2.
Authorities, family members and dozens of volunteers searched for weeks before Papini surfaced on Thanksgiving Day morning - more than 240km from where she was last seen.
It would later emerge her skin had been branded with "a message", a practice common in sex trafficking circles and street gangs.
It's believed Papini was targeted by two, possibly three Hispanic women who may have thought the 34-year-old was actually a teenager.
According to sources, Papini was held in a dark, dinghy holding cell where she was starved. She's also believed to have been so badly beaten that bones were broken in her face and her long blonde hair was also chopped off.
Cameron Gamble, a controversial kidnap consultant credited with helping to bring Papini home, said the alleged abduction could be cartel related, pointing out that two Hispanic women were arrested south of Sacramento recently after an Uber driver found them bringing a minor to a hotel to traffic her.
It turns out Redding, the quiet town where Papini lives, could be a hunting ground for sex crimes. Gamble said it was one of the most dangerous places for women in the US, if you looked at the statistics per capita.
Another three more women around the area also vanished around the same time Papini went missing. However, two of those women were aged over 40 years old.
The Shasta County Sheriff's office won't confirm any of the sex trafficking allegations.
Papini's release came less than 48 hours after Gamble released a video offering a ransom from an anonymous benefactor in exchange for Papini's safe return.
Gamble believes his "reverse ransom" (when money is offered in the absence of a ransom demand) address, which went viral on social media, directly resulted in Papini's release.
Gamble believes Papini may know who took her but is too scared to reveal the truth.
But one of Papini's friends said the mother had told her she did not know who had taken her.
"I think if she knew the whys ... she would be saying," Lisa Jeter said.
"I think she is still haunted by why they took her and why they returned her."