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Carlee Russell charged after falsely reporting kidnapping

The 25-year-old Alabama woman was charged with two misdemeanors

Kelly Rissman
Friday 28 July 2023 19:48 BST
Carlee Russell admits 'kidnapping' was a hoax

Carlee Russell, the 25-year-old Alabama woman who claimed she went missing and later alleged that she had been kidnapped, has been charged.

The arrest warrant was issued earlier on Friday 28 July, Hoover Police Chief Nicholas Derzis said in a news conference.

Hoover police arrested Ms Russell “for her actions related to faking her kidnapping and subsequently making false statements to detectives.” Chief Derzis continued, “Her decisions that night created panic and alarm for citizens of our city and even across the nation.”

Numerous law enforcement agencies worked “tirelessly” to bring Ms Russell home to her family and to find a kidnapper “that we know now never existed.”

She turned herself into the Hoover City Jail for charges of false reporting to law enforcement authorities, which is a misdemeanour, and falsely reporting an incident, also a misdemeanour, he said. Each charge had a bond set at $1,000 and can result in up to a year in jail and a potential fine of $6,000 if convicted.

She posted bond and was released from jail.

Chief Derzis also said they have not found out where she was in the 49 hours she went missing.

Ms Russell’s attorney issued a statement: “There was no kidnapping on Thursday, 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 — this was a single act done by herself.”

The statement continued, “My client was not with anyone or any hotel with anyone from the time she was missing. My client apologizes for her actions to this community, the volunteers who were searching for her, to the Hoover Police Department and other agencies as well and to her friends and family. We ask for your prayers for Carlee as she addresses her issues and attempts to move forward, understanding that she made a mistake in this matter.”

Ms Russell disappeared on 13 July after calling 911, claiming she had seen a toddler walking on the side of an Alabama interstate. But by the time police arrived at the scene, neither Ms Russell nor the toddler were anywhere to be found.

This sparked an investigation. Mysteriously, 49 hours after she vanished, the 25-year-old arrived at home. She was reportedly in a state of shock, and eventually told her family, boyfriend, and then detectives a harrowing story of her survival over the last two days.

Ms Russell’s explanation involved being abducted by a white man with “orange hair” and she was forced to undress and pose for photos. Miraculously, though, she claimed, she was able to escape and flee into the woods and make it home safely.

Shortly after that is when her story began to unravel: her search history revealed that she had looked up the movie Taken, “how to take money from a register without being caught,” and questions surrounding amber alerts.

Police voiced doubts about her abduction publicly. “To think that a toddler, barefoot, that could be three or four years old is going to travel six football fields without getting on the roadway, without crying ... it’s very hard for me to understand,” Mr Derzis said during a previous press conference.

The police chief said investigators had their doubts from the beginning, but on 24 July, he admitted, “We know that it was a hoax.”

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