CRIME

California mom found along highway had message burned onto skin, sheriff says

Woman found chained up, beaten bruised and branded

 

A California sheriff confirmed Wednesday that the abductors of a woman who was held captive for three weeks branded her with a "message" before she was released and said he had no reason to doubt her story.

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko told reporters at a press conference Wednesday that Sherri Papini was branded by her captors, but did not disclose where she was branded or with what "for integrity of the investigation." 

In an earlier interview, Bosenko told ABC's "Good Morning America" that the suspects may have been trying to humiliate Papini by cutting off her long blonde hair and branding her.

Bosenko declined to elaborate on the branding, saying only that it was a message, not a symbol.

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Papini's husband has said his 34-year-old wife was covered with bruises and burns and was chained at the waist and wrists when she was found along Interstate 5 near Sacramento on Thanksgiving.

The mother of two small children disappeared while jogging Nov. 2 near her home in Redding.

Dispatch audio from the Yolo County Sheriff's Department reveals Papini was found battered and chained to something along northbound Interstate 5, near County Road 17 in Yolo County, on Thanksgiving morning. The location is 140 miles from the Shasta County community where she vanished while jogging, Fox 40 reported.

One woman, who claims she saw Papini on Thanksgiving morning on the side of the road, posted a message to Facebook, saying: "I couldn't stop in time to help you this morning but I did pull over and report to police that I saw you by the road and was certain you needed help."

Questions continued to swirl Wednesday around the identities of the abductors and the motive for the kidnapping. The woman reportedly told police that she was dropped off along the highway by two Hispanic women armed with a handgun.

Bosenko described the one of the suspects as a young Hispanic woman with long, curly hair with a thick accent, pierced ears, and thin eyebrows. The second suspect, who was the older of the two, was described by Bosenko as having straight, black hair with greying color and thick eyebrows. 

The sheriff told reporters Wednesday that Papini "did the best she could" at giving a description, but was not able to make a detailed one because the suspects had their faces covered while she also had part of her face covered. 

The woman's husband, Keith Papini, released a statement to "Good Morning America" saying his wife suffered severe abuse at the hands of her captors, including a broken nose. She was found starved and covered in scabs and bruises, and her long, blond hair was "chopped off."

Papini also sought to dispel rumors that his wife's abduction was a hoax.

"My Sherri suffered tremendously, and all the visions swirling in your heads of her appearance, I assure you, are not as graphic and gruesome as the reality," he said Tuesday in a written statement to ABC’s “Good Morning America."

“Rumors, assumptions, lies, and hate have been both exhausting and disgusting,” said Papini. “Those people should be ashamed of their malicious, sub human behavior. We are not going to allow those people to take away our spirit, love, or rejoice in our girl found alive and home where she belongs."

Bosenko said he and his detectives have no reason to doubt Papini's story.

“All the information that we have right now we have no reason to believe that she is making this up,” Bosenko told The Sacramento Bee on Wednesday. 

Investigators have also issued 20 search warrants in the case, and are looking at the woman's computer records for any clues. They're also searching for any surveillance video showing Papini or her abductors, according to Fox 40. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.