Carlee Russell's disappearance was 'hoax'; charges possible, police say
The Alabama woman who had reportedly gone missing was never missing.
Carlee Russell, the Alabama woman who returned home on July 15 after she was reportedly missing for two days, was never missing, Hoover Police Department Chief Nicholas Derzis told reporters at a news conference Monday.
Derzis read a statement he said was provided to police by Russell’s attorney, Emory Anthony, acknowledging “there was no kidnapping.”
“My client has given me permission to make the following statement on her behalf. There was no kidnapping on Thursday, July 13th 2023. 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. My client did not have any help in this incident. This was [a] single act done by herself,” the statement, as read by Derzis, said.
“We ask for your prayers for Carlee as she addresses her issues and attempts to move forward. Understanding that she made a mistake in this matter, Carlee again asks for your forgiveness and prayers,” the statement continued.
Derzis said police have a meeting with Anthony scheduled to discuss the case, and they are in discussions with the Jefferson County District Attorney's office over “possible criminal charges related to this case.” He said there is no meeting with Russell or her family at present.
Derzis added that police will announce potential charges “when and if they are filed.”
The press conference on Monday came after police told the public last Wednesday that Russell searched for Amber Alerts and the movie "Taken" on her phone before her disappearance.
Russell also made searches related to bus tickets in the hours before she went missing, Derzis said.
"There were other searches on Carlee's phone that appeared to shed some light on her mindset," Derzis said, adding he would not share them out of privacy.
"Taken," the 2008 movie starring Liam Neeson, centers around a young woman who is abducted and the quest to save her from her kidnappers.
ABC News has reached out to Anthony and Russell's family for comment.
Russell told police that she was taken by a male and a female when she stopped to check on a toddler she saw on the highway, Derzis said last Wednesday.
"She stated when she got out of her vehicle to check on the child, a man came out of the trees and mumbled that he was checking on the baby. She claimed that the man then picked her up, and she screamed," he said at the time.
Asked if investigators saw a man abduct Russell in the surveillance video of the interstate, Derzis said that they did not.
Russell called 911 on July 12 at around 9:30 p.m. ET to report a toddler on Interstate 459 in Alabama before her disappearance, but the Hoover Police Department said in a press release last Tuesday that investigators did not find any evidence of a child walking on the side of the road.
"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," the press release said.
"People have to understand that when someone says something like this, we put every available resource -- everybody comes from a state, local, federal -- it's just a lot of work," he said last week.
Derzis was also asked last week if the next time a woman of color goes missing, the case may not be taken seriously. He replied: "We investigate every crime to the fullest just like we have this one."
ABC News' Nadine El-Bawab and Mariama Jalloh contributed to this report.