Alabama woman Carlethia “Carlee” Nichole Russell made headlines when she was reported missing on July 13 after she called 911 to report seeing a toddler walking alone on a highway. She was found and returned home 48 hours later, though she left the world wondering what happened when she was missing and who her abductor is. After holes began appearing in her story, her boyfriend, Thomar Latrell Simmons, begged the public to stop cyberbullying her.
“The only thing I can say is, I want everyone to stop bullying her. I know what it seems like what she did. Just stop bullying on social media,” Thomar pleaded. “Think about her mental health. She doesn’t deserve that. She doesn’t. Nobody deserves to be cyberbullied.”
Now, Russell’s attorney has deemed her kidnapping a hoax.
Keep scrolling to find out about her disappearance, her return home and more.
When Did Carlee Russell Go Missing?
Shortly before her disappearance, Russell called a relative to tell them she saw the child walking alone. The relative, who was believed to be Russell’s brother’s girlfriend, lost contact with her and the phone line remained open. The relative told authorities that she heard screaming on the other line.
Following the phone call, the relative called 911 and police officers arrived five minutes after they were dispatched. They found Russell’s wig, cell phone, purse and Apple Watch at the scene upon their arrival.
When Was Carlee Russell Found?
Just 48 hours after her disappearance, Russell returned to her Alabama home alone on July 15 around 10:45 p.m. After being evaluated at a hospital, she returned home on the afternoon of July 16.
Police Say There’s No Evidence of the Toddler Carlee Russell Claimed to See Before Disappearance
Authorities claimed that they found no evidence that a toddler was walking alone on the side of the highway on the night of Russell’s disappearance.
“The Hoover Police Department has not located any evidence of a toddler walking down the interstate, nor did we receive any additional calls about a toddler walking down the interstate, despite numerous vehicles passing through that area as depicted by the traffic camera surveillance video,” a press release stated on July 18.
Carlee Russell’s Family Breaks Their Silence After She’s Found
“We tried to hug her as best we could, but I had to stand back because she was not in a good state,” Robinson-Russell recalled about the moment Russell returned home. “So, we had to stand back and have medical professionals work with her.”
While Russell’s parents couldn’t discuss what happened during the time she was missing, they assured viewers that she “fought for her life.” Robinson-Russell said, “There were moments where she physically had to fight for her life and there were moments where she had to mentally fight for her life.”
Carlee Rusell’s Boyfriend, Thomar Latrell Simmons, Slams Speculation That He Abducted Her
In a lengthy post discussing her return, Simmons acknowledged the “false allegations & assumptions” that he had “something to do with her abduction” and said they “would have me discouraged at times.”
However, Simmons didn’t let the rumors get in the way of his determination to get Russell back home.
“I didn’t give up & kept my faith! I just want to thank all of my family, friends, former teammates & church members who called or texted me just to let me know that they’re praying & here for me,” he wrote. “You guys don’t know how much that meant to me!”
What Has Carlee Said About Her Disappearance?
During a July 19 press conference, Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis described what Carlee told investigators while recovering at UAB hospital. Recounting her missing 48 hours to detectives, Carlee said that she said she exited her vehicle to check on the baby she saw on the side of the road. Carlee then claimed she was approached by a man who approached from the trees, claiming to be checking on the child. Carlee was allegedly taken by him, forced into a vehicle and the next thing she remembered was waking up in the trailer of an 18-wheeler with a male and female.
She said she never saw the woman and only heard her voice, along with the sound of a baby crying. Carlee was able to escape the truck but was captured again, forced into a car and was blindfolded. The nursing student claimed she was taken to a house and forced to undress and that she believes nude photos were taken of her.
The next day when she woke up, Carlee said she was fed cheese crackers by the woman and was later put in a vehicle, but she was able to escape in the Hoover area near her parents’ home. She ran through the woods and made it back to her mom and dad’s house. Carlee reportedly suffered a torn lip, had rips in her shirt and had $107 cash in her right sock.
What Have Police Said About Carlee’s Disappearance?
“We’ve asked to interview Carlee a second time but have not been granted that request,” Derzis said at the news conference. “There are many questions left to be answered, but only Carlee can provide those answers.”
Police have been “unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statement made to investigators,” the chief added, saying authorities “have no reason to believe that there is a threat to public safety related to this case.”
Derzis also said that prior to Carlee’s disappearance, she made several “very strange” online searches, including information about Amber Alerts, the kidnapping thriller Taken and how to get money from a cash register without getting caught.
On July 24, Derzis held another conference to read a statement from Russell’s attorney on her behalf , admitting that the kidnapping story was made up. Through her attorney, Russell asked for the public’s “forgiveness and prayers.”
“There was no kidnapping on Thursday, July 13, 2023,” the lawyer 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,” Derzis read. “This was a single act done by herself. My client was not with anyone or any hotel with anyone from the time she was missing. My client apologizes for her actions to this community, the volunteers who were searching for her, to the Hoover Police Department and other agencies as well, [and] to her friends and family.”
Has Carlee Russell Been Charged With a Crime?
Carlee was charged with filing a false police report and filing a false statement to law enforcement authorities, both of which are a Class A misdemeanor, the Hoover Police Department announced on July 28. It was revealed in a news conference that Carlee turned herself in to police and was later released on a $2,000 bond.
“Judging from the amount of phone calls and emails that we have received from all over the country, I know that many are shocked and appalled that Miss Russell is only being charged with two misdemeanors, despite all the panic and disruption her actions caused,” Chief Derzis said. “Let me assure you, I, too, share the same frustration, but existing laws only allow the charges that were filed to be filed.”
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