Carlethia “Carlee” Nichole Russell is a 25-year-old dual-enrolled nursing student at UAB and Jeff State community college in Birmingham, AL. After a seemingly normal day at work, she has not been heard from since after 9:34PM-9:36PMCST on Thursday, July 13th.
updates listed at bottom
Link to Carlee’s instagram here: Carlee💞 (@carleenichole__) • Instagram photos and videos
After leaving work at The Woodhouse Day Spa, located at The Summit Shopping Centre in Birmingham, AL., she traveled in her red 2021 CLA 250 AMG Mercedes Coupe to Tazikis, located in the Colonnade shopping center in Inverness. She arrived to this location to “pick up dinner for herself and her mother” around 9pm.
After, she traveled down I459S towards mile marker 11 and the John Hawkings Parkway exit.
At approximately 9:34PM, Carlee called 911 and spoke to police dispatch for Hoover, AL and stated “[she] saw a toddler on the interstate.”
After disconnecting with HPD, [Carlee] stopped to check on the child and called a family member, according to police (circulating that it was her brother or her brothers girlfriend, according to her mother, Talitha Russell.) The family told investigators that they heard “[her] scream”. They lost contact with her around 9:36PM, but the phone line remained open, and they heard background noise. The Hoover police department is said to have been on the scene less than 3.5 minutes after the initial 911 call came in. They found evidence at the scene, but no sign of Carlee. This was confirmed by HPD in a 7/14 press conference, linked below:
Talitha Russell, told CNN affiliate WBRC that she was working to stay positive during the search for her daughter.
“We are trusting God, we are staying positive, we are not allowing any negative thoughts to enter our minds,” she told WBRC. “So all that we are doing is trusting God, believe in God that our daughter will be brought home safely.”Carlee Russell: Alabama woman missing after stopping to help toddler she saw on interstate | CNN
Russell is 5 feet 4 inches tall, 150-160lbs, and was last seen wearing a black t-shirt, black pants (potentially a scrub set) and white Nike shoes, according to the Hoover police Facebook post. Police urged anyone who may have seen Russell or who has any information about the case to contact the department.
Update: 7/14 at approximately 10:00PM WBRC obtained footage of Carlee driving along the shoulder of 459S, on 7/13. You can see her flashers on, and what appears to be her getting out of her vehicle around 45 seconds. The HPD arrives on the scene at the end of the clip.
Hoover police chief Chief Nick Derzis said Saturday, 7/15,
“We have looked at the video,’’ Hoover police Chief Nick Derzis said Saturday. “It’s not the greatest.”
The chief said they are working to get the video enhanced for more clues into Russell’s disappearance.
“It proves that Carlee’s car was there, and we know that when the officers responded after the 911 call that she was not,’’ Derzis said.Traffic cam footage of Carlee Russell’s car on I-459 investigated as search continues – al.com
The reward for information leading to Carlee’s whereabouts has reached $60,000 as of Saturday, July 15th.
Around 7:00PM CT Saturday, reports began circulating that Carlee was at a Red Roof Inn and had called her family.
Other reports mention that there was potentially activity at a Red Roof Inn, but it was clear as of 7:55PM CST.
Carlethia “Carlee” Nichole Russell returned home on foot Saturday night at 10:44PM. It was stated that she returned home “on foot” and alone.
At 10:44 p.m. Saturday, the Hoover police received a 911 call saying Russell had returned home on foot, according to police.
When first responders arrived, they found Russell conscious and speaking, police said in the statement sent to USA TODAY.
Russell was taken to an area hospital where she was evaluated and has since been treated and released, police said.
Detectives obtained surveillance video from Russell’s neighborhood which showed her walking down the sidewalk alone prior to returning to her home, police said in the statement.
“Fire department radio traffic obtained by several media outlets shows that medics were dispatched to her residence on an ‘unresponsive but breathing’ person. That was the term used in the initial dispatch of the Hoover Fire Department to the residence, and the information about her condition was simply a dispatcher relaying information from what a 911 caller told the emergency communicator,” police said in the statement.”Carlee Russell timeline: police say missing Alabama woman went to Target before 911 call (yahoo.com)
Information released publicly was minimal, until Tuesday, 7/18 when Carlee’s parents went on The Today Show for an interview. Her mother, Talitha Russell, mentions her “abductor” and her father appears to nod his head yes and no during the interview, seemingly unable to keep up with the questions and what his opinion is – which is heavily discussed and speculated on online.
“Carlee has given detectives her statement so that they can continue to pursue her abductor,” Talitha read from a written statement. She also stated that, “Carlee definitely fought for her life.”Carlee Russell timeline: police say missing Alabama woman went to Target before 911 call (yahoo.com)
When Carlee Russell’s mother was asked what happened when they first saw their daughter, she noted that they were overwhelmed, but Carlee needed medical attention.
Hoover police said they will follow up with Russell again to “attempt to get a better understanding of her movements during the time she was missing,” Hoover police told USA TODAY.
A post from 7/17 that was shared to our True Crime Society facebook group.
Update, Wednesday, 7/19:
Hoover Police Department announced they would have a press conference at 2:30 PM on 7/19. Details from the PC include:
Carlee Russell searched for information about Amber Alerts, bus stations and taking money before she went “missing.” The U.S. Secret Service found these searches on her phone, which was left in her car after she went missing Thursday night after reporting a toddler walking along I-459.
Search terms included:
“do you have to pay for an amber alert or search”
“how to take money from a register without being caught”
“Birmingham bus station”
“one-way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville”
(the movie) “taken”
information about Amber alerts on her work computer
Other searches that police say reveal her mindset that won’t be released
Surveillance footage from her work at the spa shows that she concealed a bathrobe and toilet paper when she left, and neither were in the car after she went missing.
When she called 911, data tracked her driving 600 yards while she said she was allegedly following the toddler along the interstate, according to Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis. That is the distance of six football fields.
No child has been reported missing at this time in Hoover, Derzis said.
Traffic camera footage has been sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for enhancement and has not yet been returned.
During her initial statement to police, Russell said that when she got out of her car, a man came out of the trees and mumbled that he was checking on the baby. He then picked her up, took her over a fence, and the next thing she remembered was that she was in a tractor-trailer.
In the truck, there was also a man and a woman, according to the statement. She also heard a baby. She was able to escape the truck but then found herself in a car again and was taken to a house, where she was undressed and was possibly photographed.
A woman fed her cheese and crackers and played with her hair, she told police. She was able to escape and ran through the woods, finding herself near her residence and able to get home.
Police said she had a minor injury to her lip and $107 in cash in her sock. No drugs or alcohol were in her system.
In addition to the PC on 7/19, Angela Haley-Harris, the mother of Aniah Blanchard, who was abducted and murdered in October 2019, stated she would be making a statement on 7/20. She has been supportive and offered her assistance as well as The Aniah’s Heart foundation efforts in locating Carlee Harris prior to HPD PC.
Update Friday, July 28th
Carlee Russell turned herself in and has been charged with falsely reporting an incident
She was released on bail, Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis announced at a news conference.
Her story captured the nation’s attention, but as it turns out, she did not see a toddler on the side of the road, wasn’t kidnapped, did not leave the Hoover area and acted alone, Emory Anthony, Russell’s attorney, said in a statement Monday.
Both misdemeanor charges have a maximum sentence of up to a year in jail and a fine up to $6,000, Derzis said.
“I know many are shocked and appalled that Miss Russell is only being charged with two misdemeanors, despite all the panic and disruption her actions caused,” he said.
“Let me assure you I too share the same frustration,” he went on. “But existing laws only allow the charges that were filed to be filed.”
The investigation will be handled by the office of Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall.