Carlee Russell Admits She Was Never Kidnapped

Hoover, Ala., police read a statement on Monday in which Russell said she made up the whole story around her abduction.

Carlethia Russell, the Hoover, Ala., woman who was reported missing and feared kidnapped, has admitted that the entire episode was an elaborate hoax. She has now apologized for her actions through a statement provided by her lawyer to the Hoover Police Department on Monday (July 24).

“There was no kidnapping on Thursday, July 13, 2023,” said Emory Anthony, Russel’s attorney in a statement read at a press conference held by Hoover Police. “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,” Anthony continued. “This was a single act done by herself. My client was not with anyone, or in any hotel with anyone in the time she was missing. My client apologies for her actions to this community.”

Russell also extended those apologies to the volunteers, law enforcement and friends and family, who spent tireless hours searching for her, according to the statement, which was read by Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis.

Russell, a 25-year-old nursing student, reportedly went missing after leaving her part-time job at a Birmingham spa and making a stop at a local restaurant to pick up food. The story she created was that she saw a toddler who was wandering along a highway not far from her home in Hoover. After calling  911 to report the child who appeared lost, she was on the phone with a family member before leaving to assist the toddler, police said.

After a two-day search, she returned to her parent’s home around the night of July 15. Surveillance video shows Russell walking alone toward her home when she returned. A dispatcher relayed information from a 911 caller that she was “unresponsive but breathing.” Emergency responders found her conscious and speaking before transporting her to a hospital. At the time it was unclear exactly where she was while she was missing even after she gave a statement to detectives about the alleged incident.

During an interview on NBC’s TODAY, her parents, Talitha and Carlos Russell said that she had been abducted and that her abductor was still at large.

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 told TODAY. "She made it back."

However, skepticism rose a few days later when Derzis, during a press conference described the progress of the investigation. Russell claimed that she was abducted while she was watching the baby by a White man with balding red hair, that she was forced into an 18-wheeler truck and held by the man and another woman. She claimed she eventually escaped from a vehicle in the West Hoover area and made her way home.

Investigators could find no evidence to corroborate her story, however. 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 a two-year-old child that entire time.

“What we can say is [that] we’ve been unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statements made to investigators,” Derzis said at the time. He also added that she made several suspicious internet searches including one about AMBER Alerts, another about one-way bus tickets between Birmingham and others.

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

The controversy spurred enormous discussions on social media about the case, whether or not it was a hoax, and issues surrounding missing Black women. Many flat out said they did not believe her and that she was doing harm to those cases of actual Black women who had gone missing and had not been seen for months or years.

With the admission that her story was false, the investigation now turns to Russell and her actions. It remains unclear exactly where Russell was during the time she was missing. It is also not clear why she would fabricate a kidnapping. No statement of her mental health has been made public.

Derzis said that investigators will be meeting with Anthony to discuss the case further, and that his department is in discussions with the Jefferson County prosecutor on possible criminal charges.

“We’ll certainly be asking if we’ll get an opportunity to interview Carlee, like we’ve wanted to since she returned. The sad thing is that there were so many people that were involved, and took this thing very seriously,” said Derzis. “The facts…pretty much showed we knew it was a hoax.”

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