The husband of Sherri Papini, the California mother who disappeared for three weeks after an alleged abduction, has spoken out for first time since his wife was found safe last week.
Papini vanished on Nov. 2 after heading out from her Redding, Calif., home for a jog while her two children were at daycare and her husband was at work. Three weeks later, Papini turned up on the side of a highway beaten and chained to a “heavy object.”
Though details of her alleged abduction are scarce, Papini’s husband, Keith, issued a statement exclusively to Good Morning America, and thanked “the entire Redding community, and countless communities around the world,” who helped in the search for his wife and those who reached out to the family’s “torturous journey.”
Though authorities have not released details about the condition Papini was in when she was found in the early morning hours last Thursday, Keith described in the statement what he saw the first time he laid eyes on his wife since she disappeared.
“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 father of two said in the statement. “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.”
Keith said Papini’s “emaciated body of 87 pounds was covered in multi coloured bruises, severe burns, red rashes, and chain markings” and her “signature long, blonde hair had been chopped off.”
“She was thrown from a vehicle with a chain around her waist, attached to her wrists and a bag over her head,” the husband says in the statement. “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.”
Speaking with Good Morning America, Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said authorities “were able to get some information” from Papini and that she “was emotional and quite upset, but elated to be freed.”
Later, the sheriff told ABC News that police have no reason to disbelieve the woman’s story.
“She was assaulted and had injuries which she was treated for,” Bosenko said.
Bosenko said investigators were searching for two women who released Papini about 225 kilometres south of where she had last been seen near Redding.
In the statement, Keith addressed the speculation surrounding his wife’s disappearance and alleged abduction.
“Rumors, assumptions, lies, and hate have been both exhausting and disgusting. Those people should be ashamed of their malicious, sub-human behaviour,” Keith 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. 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.”
During Papini’s disappearance, a “Help Find Sherri Papini” Facebook page was set up to provide information into the search for the missing mother. The page had nearly 19,000 likes before being deleted. A cached version of the page shows many Facebook users’ well wishes and providing comments of support since Papini was found. However, some users called her story into question.
“Something seems a little off about this story though,” Gray Hughes wrote.
“Something is off,” Shari Bella Tyler commented on a video of the press conference.
“I would like to make a quick post here, we all need to remember to please be respectful and kind during this time. We need to keep the speculation and rumors to a minimum. We will not release any information until SCSO is ready for it to be made public,” reads a statement on the page.
In the statement, Keith addressed the use of social media and said he and his wife are “a very private family whom do not use social media outlets prior to this grotesque tragedy.”
“My love for my wife took precedece and it was clear we had to be exposed in ways we never would have been comfortable with,” Keith said. “So please have a heart and understand why we have asked for our privacy.”
-with a files from the Associated Press