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Carlee Russell admits she was not abducted, there was no toddler wandering on the side of highway

Carlethia Nichole “Carlee” Russell (Hoover Police Department)

Carol Robinson

Carlee Russell has admitted to Hoover police that she was not abducted from the side of Interstate 459 when she said she stopped to check on a toddler walking alone.

Her attorney, Emory Anthony, sent this statement to Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis Monday morning:

“Dear Chief Derzis, my client has given me permission to make the following statement on her behalf: There was no kidnapping on 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, but this was a single act done by herself,’’ Anthony wrote.

“My client was not with anyone or at any hotel during the time she was missing,’’ Anthony said.

“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,’’ the attorney said 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,’’ Anthony said. “Carlee again asks for your forgiveness and prayers.”

Anthony has not said where Russell spent the 48-plus hours she was gone.

Anthony told AL.com that Russell told him she was not at the Red Roof Inn, which has been widely reported on social media.

No charges have been filed against Russell.

Carlee Russell (Contributed)

Derzis said they are discussing possible charges with the District Attorney’s Office in the Bessemer Cutoff and will meet with Anthony on Tuesday. Derzis said they still would like to speak with Russell herself.

Based on the facts release at a press conference last week, Derzis said “we knew it was a hoax.”

Police still do not know where Russell was while she was missing, Derzis said. “This was an elaborate deal,” Derzis said of her disappearance.

Russell seemingly vanished Thursday, July 13, after calling 911, and a family member, to report seeing a child, about 3 or 4 years old only wearing a diaper, walking alone on the busy interstate.

The family member reported hearing a scream, and then only interstate noise through the open cell phone line.

The disappearance of the 25-year-old Russell, a nursing student, sparked a massive search and widespread concern.

Two days later, Russell showed up alone at her parents Hoover home. She was taken to UAB Hospital for evaluation.

While at UAB Hospital, Russell told Hoover police she escaped the clutches of a man and woman who snatched her from the side of Interstate 459 two nights earlier, officials.

Authorities were able to determine that Russell left her job at Woodhouse Day Spa – from which she has since been fired – after taking a robe, toilet paper and a small amount of cash.

She ordered food from Taziki’s at The Colonnade and traveled there. Carlee then traveled to Target on Highway 280 where she bought some granola bars, Cheez-its, and a drink.

From there, she remained in the parking lot of that shopping center until 9:21 P.M. when she drove to I-459.

Russell called 911 at 9:34 p.m., reported seeing the child. After that she called her brother’s girlfriend, and it was during that conversation – about 9:36 p.m. – that she went missing.

Police said no one else ever reported seeing a toddler on the interstate.

Data from Russell’s phone, including her Life360 app, showed she traveled approximately 600 yards in her vehicle while she was on the phone with 911 stating she was following the child.

When police arrived on the scene, they found Russell’s wig, cell phone and purse on the roadway near her vehicle, and her Apple Watch was in her purse.

The food she ordered from Taziki’s was also still in her car. The items she purchased from Target, as well as the items taken from her place of employment, were not in the vehicle nor were they located at the scene.

What Carlee Russell told police happened the night she disappeared:

In her initial interview after her return home, Russell told police she was abducted from the side of I-459.

“She told detectives that while traveling down the interstate, she saw a baby walking down the side of the road and called 911. When she got out of her vehicle to check on the child, a man came out of the trees and mumbled that he was checking on the baby,” Derzis said at a press conference this past Wednesday.

“That man then picked her up and she screamed. He then made her go over a fence. He then forced her into a car and the next thing she remembers is being in the trailer of an 18-wheeler. She stated that the male was with a female, however she never saw the female, only hearing her voice. She also told detectives she could hear a baby crying,” Derzis said.

“She told detectives the male had orange hair with a big bald spot on the back. She was able to escape the 18-wheeler and fled on foot, only to be captured again and put into a car. She was then blindfolded, but was not tied up because the captors said they did not want to leave impressions on her wrists,” Derzis said.

“She said that they took her into a house and made her get undressed. She believes they took pictures of her, but she does not remember them having any physical or sexual contact with her. She stated that the next day, she woke up and was fed cheese crackers by the female,” according to Derzis.

“She stated the woman also played with her hair, but she could not remember anything else.

“At some point, she was put back in a vehicle that she claims was able to escape from while it was west Hoover area. She told detectives that she ran through lots of woods until she came out near her residence,” the chief said.

“During this interview, detectives noted that Carlee had a small injury to her lip and she complained of her head hurting. She also had a tear in her shirt. Detectives also noted that she had $107 in cash in her right sock.”

Russell’s parents, Talitha and Carlos Russell, made an appearance on the Today show two days after Russell returned home, maintaining that she had been abducted.

Police were “unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statement made to investigators,” Derzis said.

Russell’s parents have maintained she was abducted, telling the ‘Today’ show on Tuesday that “Carlee has given detectives her statement so they can continue to pursue her abductor.

“There were definitely moments where she fought for her life. There were moments she had to physically fight for her life and there were moments she had to mentally fight for her life,” her mother said in that interview.

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