HOOVER, Ala. (TCD) -- The 25-year-old nursing student who reported a wandering toddler on the highway and went missing for two days faces charges after it was revealed the abduction was a hoax.
In a July 28 press conference, Hoover Chief of Police Nicholas Derzis said detectives obtained warrants for Carlee Russell’s arrest on two misdemeanor charges of false reporting to law enforcement authorities and falsely reporting an incident. Russell reportedly surrendered and was later released on $2,000 bond.
Derzis said Russell could spend up to a year in jail for each charge and pay a fine of up to $6,000 if convicted.
On July 13 at approximately 9:34 p.m., Carlee Russell reported a toddler walking on the side of Interstate 459 and reportedly called a family member who heard screaming as she went to check on the child.
Police located some of Russell’s belongings at the scene but couldn’t find her and identified her as a missing person.
Investigators also looked into the possible child abduction, but no one else reported it, and there was no evidence to support Russell’s claims.
On July 15, police said Russell returned home and told police a man checking on the baby grabbed her, "forced her into a car, and the next thing she remembers is being in the trailer of an 18-wheeler."
Russell told police she escaped the 18-wheeler but was captured again and blindfolded before the man and a woman brought her to a home. There, they allegedly ordered her to undress, and Russell believed they took photographs of her but didn’t recall them "having any physical or sexual contact with her."
Russell told police she woke up, and the man and woman took her to the vehicle again, but she was able to escape and run home.
Detectives investigated Russell’s search history and reportedly saw that she looked up the cost of an Amber Alert, how to steal money from a register without being caught, the Birmingham bus station, a one-way ticket to Nashville, and the movie "Taken."
In a July 24 press conference, Derzis read a statement from Russell’s attorney on her behalf, admitting the kidnapping didn’t happen and that she did not see a toddler walking on the side of the highway.
In a statement, Derzis said Russell’s "decisions that night created panic and alarm for the citizens of our city and even across the nation as concern grew that a kidnapper was on the loose using a small child as bait."
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall added, "We don’t see this as a victimless crime. There were significant hours spent, resources expended as a result of this investigation, and not only that, but the many men and women who wore those yellow vests on a hot afternoon and evening looking for someone they thought was abducted."
Marshall said his office plans to fully prosecute the case.