Keith Papini says his wife's abduction was not a "hoax"
The husband of Sherri Papini, the California mom who mysteriously vanished earlier this month, has described the brutal condition she was in the first time he saw her after her release by her captors on Thanksgiving Day.
“My first sight was my wife in a hospital bed. Her face covered in bruises ranging from yellow to black because of her repeated beatings. The bridge of her nose broken,” Keith Papini wrote in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “She has been branded and I could feel the rise of her scabs under my fingers.”
He added that when he reunited with Papini, she weighed only 87 lbs. and her long blonde hair had been “chopped” off. He wrote Sherri had been thrown from a vehicle with a chain around her waist – which was also attached to her wrists – and a bag over her head.
Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko confirmed the injuries to Good Morning America, but said investigators have not determined whether Papini was “thrown” from the vehicle.
Papini, a mother of two, was abducted as she went for a routine jog on November 2. Authorities and her family searched for her for weeks and her husband spoke to PEOPLE pleading for her return, saying, “I just want her back, and I want her back safe.”
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Papini was found on the side of a rural road in Yolo County, California, at around 4:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving day – about 150 miles from her home.
“Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see upon my arrival at the hospital, nor the details of the true hell I was about to hear,” Keith continued. “The mental prison I was in over the past three weeks was shattered when my questions of my wife’s reality became known.”
Papini told authorities that her captors were two Hispanic women who had a handgun and were driving in a dark SUV, Bosenko said during a press conference last Thursday.
Since her rescue, rumors surrounding the mysterious abduction have prompted some to question the authenticity of her claims. However, Keith denied this, writing, “Rumors, assumptions, lies and hate have both been both exhausting and disgusting.”
He added, “I understand people want the story, pictures, proof that this was not some sort of hoax, plan to get money or fabricated race war. I do not see a purpose in addressing each preposterous lie.”
RELATED VIDEO: Sheriff: ‘No Reason to Disbelieve’ Abduction Account of California Mom Sherri Papini
Bosenko echoed Keith’s statements, telling GMA that investigators have no reason to disbelieve Papini’s story.
“So far we are still investigating this as a kidnapping abduction. And everything that she is providing us thus far is indicating that,” he said. “We currently don’t have a known motive or reason for this abduction. We don’t know if it was targeted to her specifically or a random abduction.”
Keith’s full statement is below:
The first thing I would like to address is the overwhelming amount of gratitude our entire family has for the thousands of people that have been on this torturous journey with us. I cannot possibly name each and every person, although their names are eternally etched in our hearts. Thank you to our strong family, devoted friends, the entire Redding community and countless communities around the world. Specific thanks to the Shasta County Sheriff’s department, FBI, NorCal Alliance for the Missing, the Lost Coast Trackers, Shasta Support Services, the Guardian Angels, my own personal A-Team, Cameron Gamble, Cody Salfen, Jim Linnan, Sean Ditty, Don Armstrong, Yolo County Sheriff’s Department and hospital, the medical personnel that helped our dear Sherri, social media and many news outlets. Thank you to LRT Graphics and Signarama. Thank you to the extremely generous, anonymous as well as named donors all over the world [who] selflessly gave to our family. Thank you to the many incredible humans that have never known Sherri that facilitated in sharing our heart break across the globe. Sherri has always captured my heart, and it is no surprise that she has captured the hearts not only through the country but throughout the world. Thank you, truly, immensely, sincerely and with my entire heart.
Secondly, we live in a nation of free speech, accompanied with an era of technology that provides immediate gratification. This is a double-edged sword. I am grateful for this system, as it is what spread my wife’s face quickly throughout the world, gaining the attention of thousands. The unfortunate side is that some people have been sitting in angering, expectant positions, waiting for the gory details.
Rumors, assumptions, lies and hate have been both exhausting and disgusting. Those people should be ashamed of their malicious, subhuman 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. I understand people want the story, pictures, proof that this was not some sort of hoax, plan to gain money or some fabricated race war. I do not see a purpose in addressing each preposterous lie. Instead, may I give you a glimpse of the mixture of horror and elation that was my experience of reuniting with the love of my life and mother of our children.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see upon my arrival at the hospital nor the details of the true hell I was about to hear. The mental prison I was in over the past three weeks was shattered when my questions of my wife’s reality became known.
The officers warned me to brace myself. My first sight was my wife in a hospital bed, her face covered in bruises ranging from yellow to black because of repeated beatings, the bridge of her nose broken.
Her now emaciated body of 87 pounds was covered in multicolored bruises, severe burns, red rashes and chain markings. Her signature long blond hair had been chopped off. She has been branded, and I could feel the rise of her scabs under my fingers. She was thrown from a vehicle with a chain around her waist, attached to her wrists and a bag over her head. The same bag she used to flag someone down once she was able to free one of her hands. Sherri was taken from us for 22 days and suffered incredibly through both intense physical agony and severe mental torture. 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.
We are a very private family [who] do not use social media outlets prior to this grotesque tragedy. My love for my wife took [precedence], and it was clear we had to be exposed in ways we never would have been comfortable with. So please have a heart and understand why we have asked for our privacy. This will be along road of healing for everyone. Ultimately, it was Sherri’s will to survive that brought her home. Thank you.