The Alabama woman who admitted to staging her own alleged kidnapping in a two-day disappearance that attracted national media attention is facing criminal charges of two misdemeanors, according to a new report.
Carlee Russell, who earlier this month called 911 to report that there was an unaccompanied toddler walking alongside a busy interstate highway in the city of Hoover, has been “charged” with “falsely reporting an incident and “making a false statement to police,” AL.com public safety reporter Carol Robinson tweeted on Friday afternoon.
“Her decisions that night created panic and alarm for the citizens of our city and even across the nation as the concern grew that a kidnapper was on the loose using a small child as bait,” Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said about Russell at a news conference on Friday.
Video footage posted to social media showed Russell, 25, leaving her attorney’s office on Friday morning.
The latest developments came days after Russell’s lawyer said in a statement that she was never kidnapped.
AL.com previously reported that Russell could face up to a year behind bars or a year of labor in the county if she is convicted of the offenses. She is also facing a $6,000 fine.
“Under state law, one is guilty of the Class A misdemeanor of false reporting to law enforcement authorities if he or she ‘knowingly makes a false report or causes the transmission of a false report to law enforcement authorities of a crime,'” AL.com wrote. “Under another section of Alabama law, a person commits the crime of falsely reporting an incident if ‘he or she initiates or circulates a false report or warning of an alleged occurrence.'”
On Monday, Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis during a press conference read a statement from Russell’s attorney admitting to the kidnapping hoax:
Dear Chief Derzis, my client has given me permission to make the following statement on her behalf: There was no kidnapping on July 13, 2023. 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,’’ Anthony wrote. “My client was not with anyone or at any hotel during the time she was missing.
In the statement, Russell’s attorney said his client wished to issue a public apology and planned to “address her issues.”
My client apologizes for her actions to the community, the volunteers who were searching for her, to the Hoover Police Department and other agencies, as well as to her friends and family. We ask for your prayers for Carlee as she addresses her issues and intends to move understanding that she made a mistake. Carlee again asks for your forgiveness and prayers.
What happened to Carlee Russell?
On July 13, Russell disappeared after calling 911 to report a missing toddler walking along Interstate 459. She was driving in Hoover, a city just a few miles south of Birmingham. According to the police, Russell called a family member after she reported the lone toddler, but when she went to check on the missing child, she lost contact with her family member. According to a report issued by the Hoover Police, Russell let out a scream before the call dropped. Officers arrived at the scene to find her vehicle with all of her belongings inside, but Russell and the child were nowhere to be found. Before the incident, police said they did not receive any reports about a missing child, let alone one wandering along the interstate.
Miraculously, on July 15, authorities were notified that Russell had returned to her parents’ home on foot. She was taken to a local hospital for an evaluation, treated and released.
Russell’s mother Talitha Robinson-Russell and her father Carlos Russell spoke briefly to NBC News about what happened when their daughter returned home.
“We tried to hug her as best we could, but I had to stand back because she was not in a good state,” Talitha said as tears began to well up in her eyes.
Talitha said they could not share specifics about what happened to their daughter due to the ongoing investigation, but they do believe Carlee’s “abductor” is still at large. She also mentioned that the 25-year-old had to “fight for her life” to break free from her kidnapper.
“There were moments when she physically had to fight for her life and there were moments where she had to mentally fight for her life,” the matriarch added.
Carlee is healing from her traumatic kidnapping day by day, but her father Carlos said she’s currently struggling with “bad dreams” and “moments where some things make her cringe, afraid,” including loud noises. “Just different things that trigger,” Carlos added.
“She’s having to deal with the trauma of people just making completely false allegations about her,” Talitha added. “Carlee has given detectives her statement so that they can continue to pursue her abductor.”
Days later, Hoover Police held a press conference where authorities presented some surprising facts, including a report that prior to her alleged abduction, Russell used her phone to search for information about Amber Alerts, one-way bus tickets and Taken, the blockbuster film starring Liam Neeson about a pair of women that are kidnapped by human traffickers.
In the early morning hours of the day Russell was reported missing, a search on her phone was performed for the term “how to take money from a register without being caught.”
Derzis suggested Russell stole a bathrobe and other items belonging to her employer in the hours before she was reported missing. Russell also picked up food she ordered from a Greek restaurant, bought snacks from a Target store and stayed in the parking lot there until she drove to the highway where she reported the unaccompanied toddler, Derzis said.
However, when officers arrived at the side of Interstate 459 South, they only saw Russell’s car idling with one door open and her phone, watch and purse still inside. While the Greek food was also still there, the snacks and the bathrobe were not, Derzis said.
Derzis told reporters that Russell claimed she was kidnapped by a white man with orange hair, forced over a fence and into an 18-wheeler truck, where she was blindfolded but not bound and could hear the sounds of a baby and a woman’s voice. Derzis said Russell also told police that she was able to flee before being captured again. No physical or sexual contact was alleged, Derzis said. But Russell told police that when she was placed into another vehicle, she was able to escape by running through the woods until she emerged near her parents’ home.
Derzis said he noticed Russell has a small cut on her lip, a torn shirt and $107 in her right sock.
After the bombshell revelations were made, Russell’s boyfriend deleted a post on his Instagram that went viral in part because how he described her condition as being physically dire. Thomar Latrell Simmons’ post claimed Russell “was literally fighting for her life for 48 hours” and she was not “physically & mentally stable” as a result of her ordeal with “her kidnapper.”
One day later, Simmons said on Instagram that he was “disgusted” by Russell’s kidnapping hoax.
This is a developing story that will be updated as additional information becomes available.
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