Here's What Carlee Russell Said Happened to Her During Disappearance, According to Police

At a July 19 press conference, Hoover, Alabama's police chief have an update on the mysterious disappearance of Carlee Russell, revealing what she told detectives.

By Corinne Heller Jul 19, 2023 11:12 PMTags
Watch: Carlee Russell's Internet Search History: Police Share Findings

Police are sharing more details about Carlee Russell's confounding 49-hour disappearance.

The 25-year-old, who vanished on July 13 soon after calling 911 and a family member to report seeing an unaccompanied toddler on an Alabama highway, returned home on July 15 where she was subsequently treated at a local hospital.

Days after sharing her story with authorities, Hoover Police Chief Nicholas Derzis said at a press conference that the department is still investigating the situation but has been "unable to verify most of Carlee's initial statement made to investigators." He said police have not determined if a crime was committed and have "no reason to believe" there is a threat to public safety. 

"She told detectives that while traveling down the interstate, she saw a baby walking down the side of the road and called 911," he explained. "She said when she got out of the vehicle to check on the child, a man came out of the trees and mumbled that he was checking on the baby."

He then noted that Russell alleges she was kidnapped by a man and a woman.

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"She claimed that the man then picked her up and she screamed," Derzis continued. "She stated he then made her go over a fence. She claimed he then forced her into a car, and the next thing she remembers is being in the trailer of an 18-wheeler."

"However, she never saw the female, only hearing her voice," he said. "She also told detectives she could hear a baby crying. She told detectives the male had orange hair with a big bald spot on the back. She said she was able to escape the 18-wheeler and fled on foot, only to be captured again and then was put in a car. She claimed she was then blindfolded but was not tied up because the captor said he did not want to leave impressions on her wrists."

Hoover Police Department/ Facebook

Authorities went on to describe what the nursing student had told them about her time in captivity.

"She said that they took her into a house and made her get undressed," the police chief said. "She believes they took pictures of her but she does not remember them having any physical or sexual contact. She stated the next day, she woke up and was fed cheese crackers by the female. She said the woman also played with her hair but could not remember anything else. At some point, she was put back in a vehicle."

He continued, "She claims she was able to escape while it was in the west Hoover area. She told detectives she ran through lots of woods until she came out near her residence."

Hoover Police Department

Detectives observed that Russell had a "small injury to her lip" and "tear in her shirt" and she also told them that her "head was hurting." 

"Detectives also noted that she had $107 cash in her right sock," he continued. "Out of respect for Carlee and her family, detectives did not press for additional information in this interview and they plan to speak with her in detail after giving her time to rest." 

Hoover police had said in a July 14 statement that officers dispatched in response to Russell's 911 call found her vehicle and some of her belongings nearby, "but were unable to find her or a child in the area." They also said they have not received any calls about a missing child.

At the July 19 press conference, Derzis also said data from Russell's phone showed that in the days and hours before she was reported missing, she researched topics such as the movie Taken and the query, "Do you have to pay for an Amber Alert?"

Additionally, he shared that she traveled 600 yards—or six football fields—on the interstate while on the phone with the 911 operator.

"I'm not saying it couldn't happen," the police chief clarified. "To think that a toddler, barefoot, that could be 3 or 4 years old, he's going to travel six football fields without getting in the roadway, without crying... It's just very hard for me to understand."

Police said they were not given permission for a second interview with Russell and still hope to speak with her.

Hoover Police Department

Russell has not commented publicly about her disappearance. Her parents, Talitha and Carlos Russell, told NBC News July 18 that they believe their daughter fought for her life during her ordeal. "There were moments when she physically had to fight for her life, and there were moments when she had to mentally fight for her life," Talitha said. "She made it back."

The two declined to share what their daughter told them after she returned, citing the ongoing investigation, and in a joint statement, "Carlee has given detectives her statement so that they can continue to pursue her abductor."

E! News has reached out to Russell's family for comment but hasn't heard back. E! News was not able to locate a lawyer on record for Carlee Russell to speak on her behalf.

(E! and NBC News are part of the NBCUniversal family.)

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