Sheriff: Abducted Calif. mom was branded by captors

Sherri Papini disappeared on Nov. 2, 2016, and has been reunited with her husband, Shasta County sheriff’s officials said on Nov. 24, 2016.

Last Updated Nov 30, 2016 4:57 PM EST

REDDING, Calif. -- A northern California sheriff says the abductors of a woman who was held captive for three weeks branded her with a message before she was released.

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko told “Good Morning America” on Wednesday that he wouldn’t elaborate on the branding, saying only that it was a message, not a symbol.

“I would think that that was some sort of either an exertion of power and control and/or maybe some type of message that the brand contained,” Bosenko said on Good Morning America. “It is not a symbol, but it was a message.”

Bosenko confirmed at a press conference that the captors branded Papini, but wouldn’t provide more details, citing the ongoing investigation.

Bosenko said that the suspects may have been trying to humiliate Sherri Papini by cutting off her long blonde hair and branding her.

“Obviously, a very sick person who may have wanted to not only cut it off to change her physical appearance but also as to humiliate them, wear her down,” Bosenko said.

Papini’s husband Keith has said his 34-year-old wife was emaciated, covered with bruises and burns and was chained at the waist and wrists when she was found along Interstate 5 near Sacramento on Thanksgiving. She was about 150 miles south of where she disappeared on Nov. 2 after going for a jog near Redding.

Keith Papini said his wife had endured mental and physical abuse and was beaten repeatedly.

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Keith and Sherri Papini

“Sherri was taken from us for 22 days, and suffered incredibly through both intense physical agony and severe mental torture,” Keith Papini said in the statement released to Good Morning America. “My reaction was one of extreme happiness and overwhelming nausea as my eyes and hands scanned her body. I was filled with so much relief and revulsion at once. 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.”

Based on information the woman gave police, investigators are searching for two Hispanic women armed with a handgun and driving a dark SUV.

Bosenko said investigators still haven’t been able to determine a possible motive or whether the abduction was targeted or random.

In the statement, Keith Papini blasted those who had speculated on social media that the woman’s abduction was a hoax.

“Rumors, assumptions, lies, and hate have been both exhausting and disgusting. Those people should be ashamed of their malicious, sub human behavior,” he said. “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.”