Update: The Hoover, Alabama Police Department held a news conference on Wednesday to update the public on the facts of the Carlee Russell case.
According to Hoover police Chief Nick Derzis, Russell stole a bathrobe, a roll of toilet paper and other items from the spa where she worked on Thursday, July 13.
Russell left work at 8:30 p.m. and ordered food from Taziki’s restaurant at The Colonnade. She then drove to a Target on Highway 280 where she purchased “some Granola bars and Cheez-Its.”
She remained in the parking lot at Target until 9:21 p.m. when she drove to I-459. Russell communicated with “persons known to her” until she called 911 to report seeing a toddler walking on the side of I-459 at 9:34 p.m.
Russell told the 911 dispatcher she was following the child as she spoke with the dispatcher.
An app on Russell’s cell phone shows she drove 600 yards (6 football fields) while on the phone with the 911 dispatcher.
Russell also said there were “no cars anywhere” on I-459. However, traffic camera footage shows dozens of cars and trucks passed Russell’s car as she drove slowly on the shoulder.
Police arrived 5 minutes later and found Russell’s abandoned car on the shoulder. Her wig, purse and cell phone were found on the ground near the car. Her food was in the car but the snacks that she bought at Target were not in the car. Neither were the bathrobe and toilet paper.
Chief Derzis said there was no evidence of a small child walking on the interstate.
In her only interview with detectives after she returned home on Saturday night, Russell said she was with the toddler on the side of Interstate 459 when a white man emerged from the trees and mumbled that he was checking on the baby.
She said the man picked her up and carried her into the woods. The man made her climb over a fence and forced her into a car. The next thing she remembers was being in the trailer of an 18-wheeler, said Derzis.
She described her abductor as a man with orange hair and a bald spot. She said she didn’t see the woman.
Russell said she escaped and was captured and taken to a house where she was instructed to undress. She believes they took pictures of her and the woman “played with her hair.” Russell said she wasn’t sure if she was sexually assaulted.
Russell said she managed to escape and ran through “lots of woods” until she emerged from the woods near her house. Derzis said Russell had a small cut on her lip and her shirt was torn.
She had $107 cash hidden in her right sock.
Derzis said Russell made multiple Google searches leading up to July 13. She searched for the terms “How to take money from a register without being caught,” “Do you have to pay for an Amber Alert?” and “Birmingham Bus station.”
She also searched for a “one way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville.”
She then searched for the movie Taken — a film about an abduction — and she searched for the term “the maximum age of an Amber Alert.”
Derzis did not disclose other searches on Russell’s phone that “appeared to shed some light on her mindset.”
“There are many questions left to be answered, but only Carlee can provide those answers,” said Derzis. “What we can say is we’ve been unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statements made to investigators. And we have no reason to believe there is a threat to public safety related to this particular case.”
Watch Hoover PD press conference below.
Originally published on: July 19, 2023 at 09:05 AM:
The Hoover, Alabama Police Department released new details in the Carlee Russell case on Tuesday.
The 25-year-old community college student reappeared on Saturday night after she was reported missing on July 13.
In a statement, Hoover police said Russell was seen on surveillance camera buying snacks at a Target store on Highway 280 at 8:40 p.m. The snacks were not found in her car that was abandoned on the shoulder of I-459.
Also not found in the car was a food order that Russell picked up from Taziki’s restaurant at 8:19 p.m.
Additionally, police found no evidence of a toddler walking down the interstate, according to WBRC.
According to reports, police are focusing on an accomplice in a car who may have picked Russell up in the area of Atkins Trimm Road in the neighborhood next to I-495.
Surveillance video from Russell’s neighborhood shows her walking alone down a sidewalk before arriving to her home.
Friends who went to high school with Russell said she has “faked multiple abductions” since high school. The friends described Russell as “entitled” and “spoiled”.
Police say they are waiting for a second opportunity to interview Russell. The family has lawyered up and are not making her available to investigators.
In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, Carlee’s mother, Talitha Robinson-Russell said:
“Carlee has given detectives her statement and hopefully they are pursuing her abductor. It will be up to law enforcement to determine what information they want to release and when they want to release this information as to not compromise the investigation.”
Police scheduled a press conference for Wednesday, July 19 at 2:30 p.m.