Hoover Police: Missing woman’s story not matching data

Carlee Russell

Carlee Russell, who went missing July 13 before turning up at her family’s front door 49 hours later on July 15, searched for bus tickets to Nashville and how Amber Alerts work ahead of her disappearance, Hoover Police revealed today.

During a 2:30 p.m. news conference, Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said there’s no threat to the public in connection with the case before offering up specific details regarding Russell’s disappearance, reappearance and what she’d told police.

Here’s a rundown of what Derzis said investigators have determined regarding what happened before Russell went missing:

  • The U.S. Secret Service analyzed internet search results from devices accessible to Russell between July 11 and July 13 and found the following among her searches:
    • Do you have to pay for an Amber Alert?
    • How to take money from a register without being caught?
    • Birmingham bus station
    • One-way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville
    • The movie “Taken”
    • Maximum age of an Amber Alert
    • Investigators said other search terms are not being released out of respect for her privacy
  • Before leaving her job July 13, surveillance video showed Russell taking a bathrobe and a roll of toilet paper from the business and concealing the items before leaving
  • Russell then went and got food from a nearby Taziki’s and stopped at Target, where she bought granola bars and Cheez-Its. She stayed in the parking lot until 9:21 p.m.
  • She then drove to Interstate 459, where she made a call to 911 saying she saw a toddler on the interstate walking westbound toward Tuscaloosa. Russell hangs up from the 911 call after the dispatcher told her to keep an eye on the child and that help is on the way.
    • This 911 call is the only call regarding a child on the interstate, and no children have been reported missing.
  • Data from Russell’s Life 360 app on her cellphone shows she traveled about 600 yards in her vehicle during the short time of her 911 call.
    • During that time, Russell told the 911 dispatcher that she was following a child
    • “That is six football fields, straight,” Derzis said.
  • Russell then called a family member, and went missing around 9:36 p.m. Hoover 911 got a second call from Russell’s mother minutes later, who said Russell had been on the phone with another person when they’d heard her scream before the only thing they could hear was cars on the road.

Hoover Police arrived at the scene within five minutes of Russell’s 911 call; they found her wig and cellphone in the grass near her car, and her food from Tazikis and purse in the front seat of her car. Her Apple Watch was inside her purse. The items she’d gotten at Target and the things she’d taken from her workplace were gone.

Russell arrived home on her own July 15, and Hoover 911 received a call at 10:44 p.m. from Russell’s residence saying she’d returned home on foot. Surveillance footage of the area shows Russell walking to her home by herself.

When investigators spoke with Russell, here’s what she told them:

  • While traveling down 459, she saw a baby walking beside the road and called 911.
  • When she got out of her car to check on the child, a man came out of the trees and mumbled that he was “checking on the baby.” That man then picked her up, and she screamed.
  • The man made her climb over a fence and get into a car; the next thing she remembered is being in the trailer of an 18-wheeler.
  • The man was with a woman she never physically saw; she only heard her voice, and she said she could also hear a baby crying. The man, Russell said, had orange hair and a bald spot on the back of his head.
  • She escaped from the 18-wheeler and ran off, but was soon captured again and put into a car. She said she was blindfolded but not tied up because her captors said they didn’t want to leave impressions on her wrists.
  • Her captors took her into a house and made her get undressed; she said she believes they took pictures of her, but doesn’t recall if they’d physically or sexually assaulted her.
  • When she woke up the next day, she was given cheese crackers by the woman. That woman also played with her hair, Russell said, but she couldn’t remember anything else.
  • At some point she was put back in a vehicle and was able to escape when it was in some location in West Hoover. She ran through a large wooded area and came out near her home.

During the first interview with investigators after she was found, detectives noted Russell had a small injury on her lip, a tear on her shirt and $107 in cash stuffed in her right sock. Russell told detectives her head was hurting. Investigators made plans to speak with Russell in detail at a later time out of respect for her and her family.

“There are many questions left to be answered, but only Carlee can provide those answers,” Derzis said. “What we can say is that we’ve been unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statement made to investigators and we have no reason to believe there is a threat to public safety related to this particular case.”

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