HOOVER, Ala. (TCD) -- The 25-year-old woman who reported seeing a toddler walking on the side of a road this month reportedly staged her own kidnapping.
According to the Hoover Police Department, on July 13 at approximately 9:34 p.m., Carlee Russell called 911 to report a toddler on the side of Interstate 459. Russell allegedly called a family member as she stopped to check on the toddler. In a press conference, Hoover Chief of Police Nicholas Derzis said Russell’s mother heard her daughter scream, and the line remained open.
Police responded to the scene and found Russell’s wig, purse, cellphone, Apple Watch, food she had recently ordered, and a few items she purchased from Target inside her vehicle.
Police identified Russell as a missing person, and Derzis noted that it sparked national attention and resulted in a search for her.
No one else reported seeing the toddler, and Derzis said there was no evidence of a child abduction.
Two days later, at approximately 10:45 p.m., police announced that Russell had returned home, and Hoover Fire medics transported her to a local hospital for evaluation.
According to Derzis, Russell told detectives she saw the baby, called 911, and when she went to check on the child, a "man came out of the trees and mumbled that he was checking on the baby."
Russell allegedly claimed the man, who had orange hair and a big bald spot, picked her up and she screamed. Derzis said Russell recalled that the man "forced her into a car, and the next thing she remembers is being in the trailer of an 18-wheeler."
Russell reportedly told detectives the man was with a female, but she didn’t see her and could only hear her voice, as well as the sound of a baby crying. According to Derzis, Russell said she made it out of the 18-wheeler but was caught again and blindfolded. However, she said she was "not tied up because the captors said they did not want to leave impressions on her wrists."
Russell reportedly said that the man and woman took her to a home, forced her to get undressed, and she "believes they took pictures of her." Russell told detectives "she does not remember them having any physical or sexual contact with her."
According to Derzis, Russell recalled waking up the next day, and the female gave her cheese crackers. Russell then allegedly went back into the vehicle and escaped before running through the woods and making it home.
Derzis said Russell sustained a small lip injury and head pain. Additionally, officials noticed a tear in her shirt and $107 in cash in her right sock.
According to Derzis, police were not able to corroborate most of Russell’s original statement to detectives.
During an investigation of Russell’s search history, detectives noted she looked up how to take money from a register without being caught, the Birmingham bus station, a one-way ticket to Nashville, and the movie "Taken," Derzis said. She had also searched whether you have to pay for an Amber Alert.
Police posted a press conference on July 24, during which Derzis read a statement from Russell’s attorney on her behalf, proclaiming the kidnapping did not happen. According to Derzis, Russell’s attorney said she did "not see a baby on the side of the road," and she "did not leave the Hoover area when she was identified as a missing person."
Russell apologized for her actions and understands she "made a mistake in this matter."
Derzis said officials are looking into possible charges.