Carlee Russell, the 25-year-old Alabama woman whose reported kidnapping led to a nationwide search, has revealed that her abduction was a hoax.
During a press conference on July 24, her lawyer, Emory Anthony, said the nursing student submitted a statement to the Hoover Police Department recanting her previous story about witnessing a toddler wandering on the side of a highway and being kidnapped.
“There was no kidnapping on Thursday, July 13, 2023,” Hoover Police Chief Nicholas C. Derzis said, reading the statement. “My client did not see a baby on the side of the road. My client did not leave the Hoover area when she was identified as a missing person. My client did not have any help in this incident, but this was a single act done by herself.”
Russell apologized to her community, the volunteers, the Hoover Police Department and other agencies that assisted in search efforts to locate her.
“As for her friends and family, we ask for your prayers for Carlee as she addresses her issues and attempts to move forward, understanding that she made a mistake in this matter. Carlee, again, asks for your forgiveness and prayers,” the statement concluded.
Derzis said that authorities are speaking with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office about “possible criminal charges related to this case” and police will provide another update “when and if they are filed.” The department also plans to meet with Anthony about the case.
The police chief shared that Russell was supposed to be interviewed by the police with Anthony on July 24, but the statement was sent instead.
Russell’s admission comes a few days after police said they were “unable to verify” most of the information she had shared with them about the kidnapping and that there was “no reason to believe that there is a threat to public safety.”
On July 13, Russell called 911 and a family member, claiming she saw a child walking alone on the I-459 freeway in Hoover.
Police said Russell screamed on the phone while speaking to a family member who then called the police. Authorities said they found Russell’s car, wig, cell phone, purse and Apple Watch after they arrived at the scene.
Russell resurfaced at her home on July 15, by herself. Hoover Police confirmed on July 18 that detectives obtained security footage that showed the student walking on a sidewalk, alone, before entering her residence and reuniting with her family.
She shared details about her alleged kidnapper and said she escaped from a car and ran home. However, authorities said in a press conference on July 19 that they had not been able to confirm details of her account.
They did determine that she traveled the distance of six football fields while speaking with a 911 operator when she claimed to be following the abandoned toddler. They also revealed that her past search history included the film “Taken,” “Do you have to pay for an Amber Alert?” and “a one-way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville with a departure date of July 13.”
Her parents, Talitha and Carlos Russell, spoke to TODAY about their daughter returning home in an interview that aired July 18.
Talitha Russell called her daughter “a fighter.”
“We tried to hug as best we could, but I had to stand back because she was not in a good state,” she said. “So we had to stand back and let medical professionals work with her.”
Talitha Russell added, “There were moments when she physically had to fight for her life and there were moments when she had to mentally fight for her life. She made it back.”
Advocates say that despite Russell’s case, people should not let it “derail” the efforts to reunite the thousands of missing Black people in the U.S. with their families.
According to the Black and Missing Foundation — a Maryland-based nonprofit group that works to bring awareness to missing people of color — more than 30,000 Black people in the U.S. remained missing at the end of 2022.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com
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