A missing California jogger found on Thanksgiving day last week after a three-week abduction had been branded with a “message” by her captors.
“It is not a symbol, but it was a message,” Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said of 34-year-old mother-of-two Sherri Papini’s injuries.
On Wednesday, her husband Keith said she had suffered “repeated beatings”.
Investigators are searching for two Hispanic adult women, last seen driving a dark-coloured SUV.
Mrs Papini was discovered with a bag over her head and chained at the waist and wrists on the side of a highway, about 140 miles (225km) from her home in northern California before dawn last Thursday.
She was abducted while jogging near her home in Redding, California, on 2 November.
Sheriff Bosenko said of the unspecified message branded on her skin: “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.”
He also said her blonde hair had been cut off, speculating the attacker was “a very sick person who may have wanted not only to cut it off to change her physical appearance, but also as to humiliate them, wear her down”.
Mr Papini told ABC News his wife was “was covered in bruises ranging from yellow to black”.
“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.”
Her nose had been broken and “her now emaciated body of 87lb (39kg) was covered in multicolored bruises, severe burns, red rashes and chain markings,” he added.
Police have cleared Mr Papini of suspicion after he submitted to a polygraph test.
In his written statement, Mrs Papini’s husband added: “Rumors, assumptions, lies, and hate have been both exhausting and disgusting.
“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.”
Mrs Papini has spoken to investigators at least three times since her release on 24 November.
Police hope to soon release a sketch of the suspects, who are believed to be armed with a handgun.