Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Carlee Russell’s internet searches suggest she staged her own kidnapping, Alabama police say

Hoover Police chief Nicholas Derzis tells press conference police hold major doubts about Carlee Russell’s claims of being abducted from the side of an Alabama interstate

Bevan Hurley
Thursday 20 July 2023 15:24 BST
Carlee Russell: Full 911 call

Carlee Russell made a series of suspicious internet searches in the days before she claimed to have been abducted, Alabama authorities revealed at a press conference on Wednesday.

A forensic analysis of Ms Russell’s cell phone, work and home computers found she looked up information about the movie Taken, Amber Alerts, booking a bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville and “how to take money from a register without being caught”, Hoover Police Department Nicholas Derzis told reporters.

The searches shed light on the 25-year-old’s mindset leading up to when she claimed to have been kidnapped after seeing a toddler walking along the side of Interstate 459 on 13 July, Mr Derzis said.

Police had been unable to verify Ms Russell’s allegations, and she has since refused to be interviewed, he added.

According to authorities, Ms Russell left work at the Woodhouse Spa in the Summit luxury shopping mall in Birmingham at about 8.20pm on 13 July.

She called 911 at 9.34pm that night to report seeing a toddler wandering on the side of Interstate 459.

When police officers arrived, they found her red Mercedes still running and her belongings, including a wig, phone, Apple Watch and purse, but no sign of her or the toddler.

An analysis of Ms Russell’s phone found that she drove for 600 yards, or six football fields, while on the 911 call claiming she was observing a toddler, Mr Derzis said.

Ms Russell turned up on foot at her parents’ home in Hoover 49 hours later, and claimed she had been kidnapped and barely survived.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Mr Derzis revealed that Ms Russell was seen taking items from Woodhouse Spa before leaving work.

Carlee Russell told police she was abducted by a man with orange hair and a bald spot, but police have found no corroborating evidence

Detectives conducted a brief interview with Ms Russell in hospital, where she claimed to have been abducted by a man with orange hair and a bald spot “who came out of the trees”.

She claimed the man picked her up and forced her into a car, and the next thing she remembered she was in the trailer of an 18-wheeler semi, Mr Derzis said.

Ms Russell told police that she heard a woman and a baby in the semi, but didn’t see them.

She claimed to have escaped from the trailer, before being recaptured and taken to a house, where her alleged captors forced her to undress and pose for photographs.

She told detectives she was placed in a car, and was able to escape and flee into woods and came out near her home.

Detectives noted she had a minor injury in her lip, and a torn shirt. They also found $107 in cash tucked in her right sock.

Hoover Police Department chief Nicholas Derzis said police have been unable to verify Carlee Russell’s abduction claims, and she has since refused to speak to detectives

“Out of respect for Carlee and her family, detectives did not press for additional information in this interview, and made plans to speak with her in detail after giving her time to rest,” Mr Derzis said.

The Secret Service analysed her phone and computers, and found internet searches that are “very relevant to this case,” Mr Derzis said.

On July 11, Ms Russell searched: “Do you have to pay for amber alert or search”.

On the day of her alleged abduction, she searched “how to take money from a register without being caught”. She also searched for a one-way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville departing that day, Mr Derzis said.

She also searched for Taken, a 2008 thriller about an abduction starring Liam Neeson.

“There were other searches on Carlee’s phone that appear to shed some light on her mindset, but out of respect to her privacy we will not be releasing the content of those searches at this time,” the police chief said.

“We’ve asked to interview Carlee a second time, but we have not been granted that request. As you can see there are many questions left to be answered, but only Carlee can provide those answers.

“What we can say is that we’ve been unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statement made to investigators, and we have no reason to believe that there is no threat to public safety.”

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in