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Carlee Russell apologizes to Alabama community, says there was no kidnapping

Carlee Russell says she was not kidnapped
Carlee Russell, Alabama woman who claimed she was kidnapped, admits it was a lie 03:25

Carlethia "Carlee" Nichole Russell, a 25-year-old Alabama nursing student who told police she was abducted, admitted Monday through a statement from her lawyer that she was not kidnapped. 

A massive search for Russell began on July 13 after she called 911 and reported seeing a toddler on the side of the highway. She returned home on July 15 and in a brief statement told Hoover police officers she'd been abducted. 

In the days since, police said they were unable to verify most of Russell's statement about being captured. Officers thought they were finally going to meet with her again Monday, but Russell's attorney emailed a statement instead, Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said. 

Derzis read out the statement at a press conference. 

"We ask for your prayers for Carlee as she addresses her issues and attempts to move forward," Derzis read on behalf of Russell's lawyer. "Understanding that she made a mistake in this matter, Carlee again asks for your forgiveness and prayers."

Police still do not know where Russell was during the approximately 49 hours after her disappearance, though they built a timeline of the days before her disappearance. Some of the timeline focuses on "very strange" online searches, Derzis said.

On July 11, Russell searched: "Do you have to pay for an Amber Alert," according to police. On the day of her disappearance, Russell searched online for the Birmingham bus station and information on bus tickets. She searched for information on taking money from a register without being caught. Russell also did an online search for the movie "Taken," which is about a woman who is abducted and the ensuing quest to rescue her. 

Russell left work in Birmingham, about 10 miles from Hoover, on the day she disappeared, around 8:20 p.m. local time. Surveillance video shows her leaving her workplace with a bathrobe, a roll of toilet paper and other items, all of which police said she kept "concealed." 

The Alabama woman ordered food from a nearby business at The Colonnade shopping mall and picked it up before she headed to a Target on Highway 280. She bought some granola bars and Cheez-Its and stayed in the store parking lot until 9:21 p.m. 

Russell called 911 at 9:34 p.m. to report a toddler on the highway, saying she'd stopped to check on the boy, police said. Investigators on Wednesday said they never found any evidence of a child on the road. 

"My client did not see a baby on the side of the road," Derzis read on behalf of Russell's lawyer during Monday's press conference.

Hoover officers responding to Russell's 911 call arrived on scene within five minutes of being dispatched, police said. Russell was gone, but officers found her car, cellphone, wig and purse. Her Apple Watch was in the bag. The snacks she'd bought at Target were gone. 

When Russell returned home on July 15, she told police a man had come out of the woods and mumbled that he was checking on the child, officials said. She told officers the man picked her up and forced her over a fence and into a car. Russell said the next thing she remembers is being in the trailer of a truck with the man, who she said had orange hair, and a woman. She also said she could hear a baby crying. 

Russell told police she escaped, but was recaptured and put into a car and blindfolded. She said she wasn't tied up, adding that her alleged captors said they didn't want to leave marks on her wrists. Russell told police she was eventually able to escape.

"There was no kidnapping on Thursday, July 13th, 2023," Derzis read on behalf of Russell's lawyer on Monday.

Russell did not leave the Hoover area after she disappeared, according to the statement. She didn't have any help and wasn't with anyone at the time. 

"This was a single act done by herself," Derzis read on behalf of Russell's lawyer. 

Police are currently in talks with the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office about possible criminal charges in the case, Derzis said. He said the charges would be up to prosecutors. 

Officers are set to meet with Russell's attorney on Tuesday and get more information. They have not had a second opportunity to speak with Russell. Police still don't know why Russell vanished. 

"I wish I could tell you," Derzis said. "I think only Carlee knows and maybe her attorney now."

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