A woman who claimed to have been kidnapped after seeing a toddler on the side of the road has been arrested after admitting to faking the abduction.
Carlee Russell, of Hoover, Alabama, was arrested and charged with filing a falsely reporting an incident after the tense saga unfolded over the last two weeks.
‘As we all know, actions can have consequences and that’s why we are here today,’ Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said on Friday.
‘Her decisions that night created panic and alarm for citizens of our city and even across the nation as concern grew that a kidnapper was on the lose using a small child as bait.’
Russell, 26. went missing on the night of July 13 after a leaving a troubling call to 911. Just before disappearing, Russell reported seeing a toddler wearing a diaper on the side of the road.
Investigators found her car on the side of the road where the 911 call was placed. They found her cell phone, wig, and purse in the same area.
Russell’s disappearance quickly became a national story and sparked a massive search.
However, Russell returned to her parents’ home just 49 hours later.
Russell told investigators that she was abducted by a man who came out of the tree line near the highway after she stopped to check on the toddler.
She claimed that she was taken hostage by two people, a man and a woman, who blindfolded her and locked her in an 18-wheeler semi truck. She also claimed that she was photographed naked during the ordeal.
However, investigators quickly started to poke holes in her story. On July 19, police in Hoover said they were ‘unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statement.’
Investigators at the scene were unable to find any evidence of a toddler on the side of the road. They also said no other reports of the child were called in that night.
On Monday, July 24, Russell admitted the story was false and issued a statement apologizing to police.
‘There was no kidnapping on July 13, 2023,’ her attorney Emory Anthony said. ‘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.’
Chief Derzis said that before confession, ‘numerous’ law enforcement agencies worked tirelessly locate a kidnapper and child that investigators now know never existed.
”We don’t see this as a victimless crime,’ Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said. ‘There were significant hours spent, resources expended, as a result of this investigation.’
‘This story opened wounds for families whose loved ones really were victims of kidnapping – some of which even organized searches in hopes that they could find Carlee alive so that her family would not experience the pain and suffering that they felt when their loved ones never returned home,’ Derzis added.
Russell was charged with two misdemeanors, both of which carry a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a potential fine of $6,000.
‘I know many are shocked and appalled that Ms Russell is only being charged with two misdemeanors despite all the panic and disruption her actions caused,’ Chief Derzis said. ‘I, too, share the same frustration. But existing laws only allowed the charges that were filed to be filed.’
Russell was released from jail the same day after paying a $1,000 bond.
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