Carlee Russell Has Admitted She Wasn't Kidnapped, Her Attorney Says

Police read a statement from her attorney at a press conference on Monday where they said she could also face criminal charges.
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Carlee Russell, the 25-year-old Alabama woman whose account of her mysterious 48-hour disappearance was questioned by police, admitted she was not kidnapped, authorities said in a news conference Monday.

“There was no kidnapping,” Emory Anthony, Russell’s attorney, said in a statement read by Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis. “This was a single act done by herself.”

“My client did not see a baby on the side of the road,” Anthony wrote, referring to Russell’s original July 13 calls to 911 and her family saying she had seen a toddler in a diaper walking along the busy highway. When police arrived, they found her car running but abandoned, with her purse on the seat and her cellphone and other belongings nearby.

“My client did not leave the Hoover area when she was identified as a missing person,” Anthony said in the statement. “My client did not have any help in this incident. This was a single act done by herself. My client was not with anyone or any hotel with anyone from the time she was missing.”

Russell apologized to her community, the volunteers and investigators who were searching for her, and to her friends and family, her attorney said in the statement, and asked for their “forgiveness and prayers.”

Derzis said the Hoover Police Department is “in discussions” with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office about “possible criminal charges” facing Russell. “We will announce those charges when and if they are filed,” he said.

Carlee Russell said she was held captive and subsequently escaped, but her lawyer later wrote in a statement that "there was no kidnapping."
Carlee Russell said she was held captive and subsequently escaped, but her lawyer later wrote in a statement that "there was no kidnapping."
Hoover Police Department

After a massive nationwide search involving the Hoover Police Department, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals, Russell returned home on foot. A 911 caller said that Russell was “unresponsive but breathing,” but police said she was conscious and speaking when first responders arrived. She was transported to a hospital. Before being treated and released, Russell told detectives an elaborate story about being abducted by a couple that night, Derzis said in a news conference on July 19.

Russell told police that when she was checking on the toddler — which no one else had reported seeing — a man with orange hair had abducted her and forced her over a fence and into a waiting car, Derzis said. She allegedly said she had been held captive, blindfolded and with her wrists bound, by that man and a woman for two days in an 18-wheeler and a house, where they photographed her naked. She said she escaped through the woods and came out near her home, police said.

But surveillance footage and Russell’s own internet searches told a different story, according to Derzis. Russell had taken a bathrobe, toilet paper and other items when she left work before her disappearance and bought snacks that weren’t found with her car, and used her cellphone to search for details about Amber Alerts, “how to take money from a register without being caught,” the movie “Taken,” and a one-way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville, Tennessee, departing on the day she disappeared, Derzis said.

The police chief added that investigators had discovered other searches on Russell’s phone “that appeared to shed some light on her mindset” but said authorities would not be sharing them publicly “out of respect for her privacy.”

Russell’s parents said in an interview with NBC’s “Today” on July 18 that she had “fought for her life” while she was missing and said that rumors and speculation that Russell had faked her disappearance were unfounded.

“She’s having to deal with the trauma of people just making completely false allegations about her,” Talitha Russell said at the time.

Derzis emphasized that investigators took Russell’s disappearance “very seriously” and were “excited” she got home safely. Still, he said that by Wednesday’s news conference, authorities “pretty much knew that it was a hoax.”

But police still don’t know what happened during the 49 hours Russell was missing and are continuing to investigate — “where she was, did she have any help, we have no idea,” Derzis said.

Black women and girls make up 36% of cases involving missing women in America, though they account for only 13% of the female population of the U.S., according to the National Crime Information Center. A 2017 study titled “Missing White Woman Syndrome” highlighted disparities in reporting, noting that white women receive a disproportionate amount of news coverage.

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