Investigators Reveal They Are ‘Unable To Verify’ Carlethia Russell’s Abduction Claim

Police are having difficulties finding the evidence that proves the 25-year-old Hoover, Ala., woman’s kidnapping story.

Police officials investigating the disappearance, and then reappearance of Alabama woman Carlethia “Carlee” Russell said Wednesday (July 19) that they found nothing to corroborate a claim that she had been abducted, although their investigation is continuing.

Officers also indicated that the investigation is not turning up evidence that would back up an initial phone conversation Russell had with an emergency dispatcher on the night she went missing.

This latest development in a case that has drawn national attention comes after Russell’s parents said that she was the victim of an abduction shortly after placing a 911 call to report a toddler wandering on the suburban Birmingham road where she was driving.

Hoover, Ala. Police Chief Nick Derzis confirmed during a press conference what had already been reported. Russell, 25, picked up dinner on July 13 at a restaurant after leaving work at a local day spa.

While driving, according to investigators, she spoke on her phone with people known to her until she dialed 911. Audio from a phone recording played during the press conference depicts her telling an emergency dispatcher that she saw a toddler walking alone on Interstate 459.

“Carlee called a relative after speaking with the 911 operator,” said Derzis.”She went missing during that conversation sometime after 9:36 p.m.” Derzis said no other 911 calls were phoned in to report a missing child, and traffic cameras have not turned up a child fitting the description or circumstances she described.

Data from her phone showed that she traveled 600 yards, about the length of six football fields, while on the phone with the emergency dispatcher, saying she was following the child that entire time. 911 dispatchers got another call from Russell’s mother, Talitha, saying that she was on the phone with a relative, who heard Russell suddenly scream. There was no further response from Carlee.

Police Reveal New Details Into Carlethia Russell’s Disappearance, Return Home

Investigators combed the scene for evidence that could lead to finding Russell, but they turned up with nothing, Derzis said. Search parties of private citizens organized by her family also found nothing. Then, two days after her disappearance, things suddenly changed.

“At 10:44 p.m. on July 15, the Hoover 911 Center receives a call from Carlee’s residence stating that she returned home on foot,” Derzis said. “In subsequent investigations, detectives obtained surveillance footage of Carlee walking down the sidewalk alone prior to her arrival at her residence. She was conscious and speaking with paramedics when she was transported to UAB [Hospital].”

Russell gave a brief statement to the police before she was treated and released, in which she told detectives that she saw the child walking down the side of the road and made the 911 call. She said that when she got out of the car to check on the child, a strange man came out of the woods, mumbling that he was also looking to help the child. Russell claims that the man then grabbed her up, as she screamed. She said he forced her over a fence, then into a car, and the next thing she remembered was being in the trailer of an 18-wheeler truck. The man, whom she described as a white male with balding orange hair, was with a woman she never saw but whose voice she heard while being held. She said she escaped the truck and ran, but was captured, put in a car, and then blindfolded. She claims they didn’t tie her up to avoid leaving marks on her wrists.

Russell told authorities that she was then taken to a house, where she was forced to undress. She believes her assailants took pictures of her but does not remember any physical or sexual contact. Eventually she was placed back in the vehicle and was able to escape it while it was in the West Hoover area.

“She told detectives that she ran through lots of woods until she came out near her residence,” Derzis said. “During this interview, detectives noted that Carlee had a small injury to her lip, and she claimed that her head was hurting.” They also noted that she was carrying $107 in cash in her right sock and had a torn shirt. No further information was taken at the time, but authorities hope to speak to her again.

Derzis also said that Russell made several internet searches on her computer in the days leading up to her disappearance. These include searching for “you have to pay for AMBER Alert”; “how to take money from a register without being caught”; “Birmingham bus station”; and there was a search for a one-way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville, with a July 13 departure date—which happens to be the date of her disappearance. There was also a search for the movie Taken, a 2008 film starring Liam Neeson about an abduction.

Derzis confirmed that other searches could shed a better light on her mindset at the time, but he would not discuss that out of privacy concerns. He said that detectives have asked to speak to Russell again, but she has not complied.

“As you can see, there are many questions left to be answered, but only Carlee can provide those answers,” said Derzis. “What we can say is [that] we’ve been unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statement made to investigators.”

Russell’s parents continue to insist the kidnappers are still out there. They support their daughter’s claims of being abducted. In an interview on  NBC News TODAY show, they said they immediately tried to hug their daughter upon her return, but instead had to stand back because “she was not in a good state.” They want the public to focus on their daughter’s truth rather than the slew of opinions on social media that question her story’s validity.

“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," Talitha Russell explained. "She made it back."

Check back to for more updates as this case continues to develop.

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