Posted on July 26, 2023

Carlee Russell Reveals She Made up Kidnapping

Harriet Alexander, Daily Mail, July 24, 2023

Carlee Russell has revealed she made up seeing a toddler on the side of an Alabama interstate and being kidnapped – as cops mull charges.

Carlee Russell

Carlee Russell

The 26-year-old sent a statement to cops admitting she had been in the area of Hoover as hundreds of people desperately searched for her for 49 hours.

Russell had claimed she was kidnapped on July 13 after she stopped to check on a toddler at 9:30pm. She turned up at her parents’ house and told cops she had been abducted, spinning an elaborate story of fighting for freedom.

Yet on Monday, Hoover police chief Nick Derzis read a statement from Russell’s lawyer in which she admitted she had invented the story, and said the hoax was ‘a mistake’.

‘There was no kidnapping on Thursday, July 13,’ he said. Later adding, ‘Carlee again asks for your forgiveness and prayers.’

Derzis said police are continuing to work on the case and prosecutors are still deciding if criminal charges should be filed.

There was no indication of a motive for staging her disappearance, or any information on where she was for 49 hours. She said in the statement she acted alone.

‘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,’ said her lawyer, Emory Anthony, in the statement.

‘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.’

Russell stopped cooperating with police after returning home, but initially told police she was taken by a white man with ‘orange hair’ who appeared from the trees on the side of I-459 after she saw a ‘baby boy in a diaper’ walking along the road.

Last week, Derzis said they had been unable to confirm Russell’s story and wanted to speak to her to clarify details.

She refused to sit for a second interview.

Police said on Monday that they were scheduled to meet with Russell, but her lawyer provided the statement that was read to the public instead.

Investigators also determined Russell researched the Liam Neeson movie ‘Taken’ and whether she was too old for an Amber Alert, plus searched for a one-way bus ticket to Nashville.

Her boyfriend, Thomar Simmons, had initially been among those frantically searching for her and expressed his relief when she turned up – but after Wednesday’s press conference, he erased all trace of her on social media.

Russell’s family are not believed to have known about her scheme.

On July 17, the day after she turned up back at her parents’ house, they recalled how they found Russell in a ‘bad state’.

‘She fought for her life,’ her father Carlos, a VP of underwriting for BBVA bank, said.

Russell left work at Woodhouse Spa in Birmingham, Alabama, around 8:20pm on July 13, after stealing a bathrobe and toilet paper.

She then stopped to pick up food for her and her mother.

Russell travelled toward Hoover and called 911 at about 9:30pm to report the missing child wandering on the side of Interstate 459.

After calling 911, Russell reportedly called her sister-in-law to tell her she was going to check up on the child.

The family member lost contact with her at about 9:36pm but the line remained open.

Responding officers located Russell’s abandoned car along with her cell phone, her purse, wig and apple watch in the nearby area, but no sign of her or a child.

Hoover Police said they never received any other calls of someone missing a small child.

Two days later, Russell returned, alone, to her family’s home.

Derzis said on Monday it seemed there was a significant degree of planning.

‘This was an elaborate deal, when you talk about calling 911 and saying there was a child on the interstate,’ he said.

Asked why she did it, he replied: ‘I wish I could tell you. I think only Carlee knows, and maybe her attorney knows now.’

Derzis said they will ask Russell’s attorney Emory Anthony for an opportunity to interview the nursing student, and said he was disappointed at her actions.

‘The sad thing is there were so many people involved and took this thing very, very seriously and, again, we wanted the focus to be to bring her home and she got home. We’re very excited about that,’ Derzis said.

‘It is what it is. We know that it was a hoax.’

Derzis was unable to say how much the 49-hour search operation cost, or whether she would be forced to repay the money.

Large numbers of volunteers, uniformed officers and K-9 teams searched for Russell for days, with helicopter support.

Derzis said it was ‘all hands on deck.’

‘We don’t have a dollar figure yet but we’re certainly working on getting one and not only ours, but the other agencies that gave us a lot of support,’ he said.

On Friday, her boss said she had been fired.

Stuart Rome told The New York Post Russell’s colleagues were initially distraught, but are now angry.

‘It was really devastating for them thinking a co-worker was abducted,’ he said.

‘The following day, Saturday, it was the busiest day of the week, and they had to plug along and work and in the off times pass out flyers and other things.’

Rome said her colleagues felt cheated, and business at the spa has suffered.

‘As the information came out that there were some questionable things, we’ve been a little pissed off, mainly because so many people took so much time out to search,’ he said, adding that the spa has been bombarded with social media messages attacking them for her actions.

‘Basically, we’ve spent the last day battling to get things deleted,’ he said.

‘Comments. I’ve had to shut down my comment section on Instagram and Facebook page, which hurts us because we do a lot of marketing there.

‘We’re just trying to keep the doors open.’

Rome said the hoax would be deeply damaging because people will not believe the next person who is abducted.

‘I think it erodes faith for the next time, it erodes faith when people see somebody who’s been abducted and they’ve been put through this,’ he said.

‘They’re just not going to respond like they did, which is the worst part.’

Police said in an update last week that investigators traced her every move and corroborated her story up until the 911 call where Russell reported seeing a toddler along the interstate.

‘We pretty much know exactly what took place from the time she left work until she got on the 911 call,’ Derzis said at the time.

‘We can see getting out of the car on the interstate from that footage. After that, I think she only knows. We don’t.’

He added: ‘What we can say is we have been unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statement made to investigators and we have no reason to believe there is a threat to public safety related to this particular case.’

Detectives stopped short of accusing her of maliciously lying, but instead questioned her mental state.

‘She said a man came out of the trees and mumbled that he was checking on the baby, then picked her up and took her over a fence and into a car.

‘She said the next thing she remembered was being in the trailer of an 18-wheeler, and that there was a female whose voice she heard but who she didn’t see.

‘She told detectives she could hear a baby crying, and that the male had orange hair,’ Derzis said.

Russell’s story included escaping from the pair then being recaptured.

‘She says they blindfolded her but didn’t tie her up because they didn’t want to leave compression marks,’ Derzis said.

She also told authorities the pair made her strip and photographed her body, but said they did not physically or sexually abuse her.

Before vanishing, Russell stole from the spa, then bought Cheez-Its and granola bars from Target. Detectives believe she took the food with her when she vanished.

Her phone, wig and Apple Watch were found in her car, along with take-out food she had ordered from a restaurant near her work.

She had also driven 600 yards – the length of six football fields -while on the phone to 911 claiming to be looking at a baby boy on the side of the road.

At the press conference, detectives played her calm 911 call reporting the child on the road.

In the days leading up to her disappearance, she researched terms like: ‘Do you have to pay for an Amber Alert?’

On the day of her disappearance, her Google searches included: ‘How to take money from a register without being caught?’

She also searched: ‘Birmingham bus station’ and ‘one-way ticket from Birmingham to Nashville.’

She also researched phrases relating to kidnapping and disappearances, including on the day she vanished.

Russell claimed she managed to escape from them while they were moving her in a vehicle, and that she ran home.

Russell’s parents on Tuesday, they insisted an ‘abductor’ was behind her disappearance.

‘Carlee has given detectives her statement so that they can continue to pursue her abductor,’ said Talitha Russell, Carlee’s mother, in an interview with the Today Show.

Pressed on whether they believe an abductor is at large in the case, Talitha responded ‘absolutely, absolutely,’ as Carlee’s father, Carlos, nodded in agreement.

The parents said they were subjected to cruel taunting and fake messages claiming to have information about their daughter while she was missing.

‘There were actually just so many calls and texts from people who maliciously lied to us,’ Talitha Russell said.

‘I just didn’t know people could be so evil.’

The mother grew emotional as she described the moment she was reunited with her daughter, saying the reunion was filled with ‘so much joy’.

‘We tried to hug as best we could, but I had to stand back because she was not in a good state.

‘So we had to stand back and let medical professionals work with her,’ she said.

As the case unfolded, it emerged that Russell tweeted about wanting to start a family, shortly before she vanished.

While her social media accounts do not explain her behavior, they paint a picture of a melancholic young woman who was unlucky in love and fed up with work.

Just 15 minutes before she called 911, at 9.20pm, she was sitting in the parking lot of a Target superstore and tweeting about wanting a family ‘now’.

Roughly 30 minutes before that, she tweeted: ‘Today was a GREAT day God be looking out im telling you!!’

Russell’s boyfriend, Thomar Simmons, was initially supportive of his girlfriend and expressed relief at her return, but has now scrubbed all mention of her from his social media.

Simmons – who had been frantically appealing for updates – appears to have now gone sour on her.

He has not only deleted his posts about her disappearance, but has also erased every photo of her and them together that had been there before.

The pair recently visited New York City over the Fourth of July weekend.

While he made loving appeals for information about her whereabouts, Russell’s Twitter account suggests all was not well in the relationship in the weeks before the ordeal.

She complained about men throwing ‘everything away’ for ‘a ‘h*e or stripper’.

‘I always say one thing I WON’T do is stay with someone who cheated on me,’ read another of her tweets.

In that instance, she was referring to another Twitter user and not Simmons.

But it was clear romance was on her mind.

‘Everyone wants to feel wanted,’ she tweeted at 3.08am on July 8, five days before she vanished.

Last month, she hinted at being betrayed.

‘You think you have a bond with someone until they show you you never did,’ she tweeted.

Russell also complained about her job at the spa.

‘My job is really starting to get on my dang nerves,’ read a tweet posted at 7.20am on July 8.

In another tweet earlier in the summer, she talked about calling out sick.

‘I just can’t with life today,’ she said.