The Spanish-speaking suspects also kept the head of 34-year-old victim Sherri Papini covered at times, limiting her ability to provide descriptions so authorities could draw sketches, Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said at a news conference Wednesday.
The abductors may have been trying to humiliate and wear down Papini by branding her and cutting off her long hair, Bosenko told "Good Morning America" .
"I would think that that was some sort of either an exertion of power and control and/or maybe some type of message," he said, emphasizing that the brand was a message, not a symbol.
At the news conference later in the day, the sheriff said authorities still lack a motive for the abduction.
"We do not know if she was a specific target or if this was a random abduction," he said.
Bosenko declined comment on where Papini had been branded or where she was held by her captors.
He said he is not sharing all the details of the investigation and asked for the public's help in finding the two women, saying authorities are trying to do a sketch of the suspects based on Papini's limited recollections.
Papini told investigators the younger woman had long curly hair, thin eyebrows and a thick accent. The older suspect had straight black hair with some gray and thick eyebrows.
The sheriff warned residents to remain cautious until the suspects are identified.
Papini, the mother of two small children, disappeared while jogging Nov. 2 near her home in Redding, about 140 miles north of Sacramento. She was released near Interstate 5.
Her husband Keith Papini has said his wife was covered with bruises and burns and was chained at the waist and wrists when she was found.
In a written statement Tuesday to "Good Morning America," he also addressed social media chatter doubting his wife's story of abduction and assault.
"Rumors, assumptions, lies, and hate have been both exhausting and disgusting," he wrote.
The sheriff has said the case is puzzling for a number of reasons, including motive. He said no ransom demand was made and the Papinis are of modest means.
Bosenko told the AP on Monday that investigators have no reason to doubt the harrowing tale told by Sherri Papini.
Keith Papini said his wife weighed just 87 pounds and the bridge of her nose was broken when she was tossed from a vehicle along the interstate with her hands restrained and a bag over her head.
Bosenko said Sherri Papini was unable to recall any details about her abduction when first questioned soon after being found.
He said victims of traumatic experiences sometimes suffer from memory loss regarding the events.
No kidding! The poor woman was undoubtedly in shock. Experts have spoken out today to suggest that the branding, the cutting off of her hair, the chains, etc., are trademarks of Mexican human trafficking cartels. The Hispanic women who abducted her fit well with that theory.
One suspects that the very pretty 34 year old was mistaken for a much younger woman. He believes that when her face began appearing everywhere, the woman was just too hot a commodity and they dumped her.
As shocking as this case is, it probably happens quite frequently across the US and Mexico as it certainly has been happening in Europe for many years - not with Mexican cartels but with Albanian, Romanian, etc., gangs.
Thank God she is home. Let us pray she gets the help she needs to recover from this horrible ordeal. And let us pray for the many girls who are abducted and trafficked around the world.