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A timeline of the Carlee Russell case: What happened to the Alabama woman who purportedly disappeared for 2 days?

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

Police investigators in Hoover, Alabama, put together a timeline of the roughly 50 hours during which Carlethia "Carlee" Nichole Russell, a 25-year-old nursing student, was purportedly missing after she called 911 last week from the side of a highway. 

"We pretty much know exactly what took place from the time she left work until the 911 call," Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said at a news conference Wednesday.

Russell briefly recounted her ordeal to investigators after she returned home on the night of Saturday, July 15, two days after being reported missing.

On July 24, Russell released a statement through her lawyer admitting she made the story up. On July 28, she was charged with two misdemeanors for falsely claiming that she was kidnapped.

Here's what we know so far.

The days before Russell allegedly disappeared

Police on Wednesday listed some "very strange" online searches that Russell made in the days leading up to her disappearance. The search queries included:

July 11, 7:30 a.m. — "Do you have to pay for an Amber alert"

July 13, 1:03 a.m. — "How to take money from a register without being caught"

July 13, 2:13 a.m. — "Birmingham bus station"

July 13, 2:35 a.m. — "One way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville" with a departure date of July 13

July 13, 12:10 p.m. — "The movie 'Taken'"

Before her 911 call

Thursday, July 13, 8:20 p.m. — Russell left her workplace in Birmingham, about 10 miles from Hoover, at around 8:20 p.m. local time, Hoover police said. 

Russell then ordered food from a nearby business at The Colonnade shopping mall and picked it up, police said. She stopped at a Target on Highway 280 to buy some granola bars and Cheez-Its. She stayed in the parking lot until 9:21 p.m., according to police. 

Russell calls 911

Thursday, July 13, 9:34 p.m. — Just after 9:30 p.m., Russell called 911 to report a toddler on the highway, saying she had stopped to check on the boy, police said. While she was on the phone with a dispatcher about the toddler, Russell traveled in her car about 600 yards, the distance of about six football fields, Derzis said.

Russell allegedly disappears and is reported missing

Thursday, July 13, 9:36 p.m. — After her 911 call, which lasted less than two minutes, Russell called a family member, police said. 

"She went missing during that conversation sometime after 9:36 PM," police wrote on Facebook.

The family member on the phone with Russell "lost contact with" her during the call, "but the line remained open," Hoover police Lt. Daniel Lowe said. Talitha Russell, Carlee's mother, told reporters that her daughter was on the phone with her sister-in-law at the time that her voice dropped out. 

Russell's mother then called the police and said Russell had been on the phone with a relative, and that relative had heard Russell scream. 

Hoover officers 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 had purchased at Target were not in the car or at the scene, police disclosed.

The 49 hours during which Russell was missing

After returning home, Russell gave investigators her account of what happened on the night of July 13. She said a man came out of the woods and mumbled that he was checking on the child, she said, according to police. Russell told officers the man then 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 Russell said had orange hair, and was accompanied by 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. Russell said she was then taken to a house, where she was undressed. 

The next day, she said, the woman fed her cheese crackers and played with her hair. 

Russell said at some point she was put back into a vehicle. She claims she was able to escape while it was in the West Hoover area, and ran through the woods to get home. 

A massive search was launched after Russell was reported missing. The search involved local, state and federal agencies, police said. A large group of volunteers organized by Russell's parents also assisted in the search effort. 

On Saturday, Hoover police released a new photo of Russell in an effort drum up more leads, and a reward totaling at least $50,000 was offered for her safe return, which included $20,000 from an anonymous source, $5,000 raised by CrimeStoppers of Metro Alabama, and $25,000 from real estate company Keller Williams, according to CBS Birmingham affiliate WIAT. 

Russell returns home

Saturday, July 15, 10:45 p.m. — Russell returned home on foot, about 49 hours after she went missing. Police received a call at around 10:45 p.m. notifying them of her return. Officers and medics responded and Russell was taken to a hospital for evaluation, Hoover police Capt. Keith Czeskleba said. 

"This investigation is not over," Derzis said. "We're still working this case and we're working this case until we uncover every piece of evidence that helps us account for the 49 hours that Carlee Russell was missing."

Russell admits she was lying

Monday, July 24 — Russell's lawyer emailed a statement to Hoover police, which was read out by Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis at a news conference

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

"We ask for your prayers for Carlee as she addresses her issues and attempts to move forward," the statement he read continued. "Understanding that she made a mistake in this matter, Carlee again asks for your forgiveness and prayers."

Police said they are meeting with the district attorney's office about possible charges.

Friday, July 28 —  Russell was charged with false reporting to law enforcement and falsely reporting an incident, both misdemeanors that carry up to a year in jail, Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said. 

Russell voluntarily turned herself in to law enforcement and was booked and processed at the Hoover City Jail, Derzis said. She was released on a $1,000 bond for each of the charges, Derzis said. 

— Aliza Chasan, Camille C. Knox, Cara Tabachnick and Faris Tanyos contributed to reporting.

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