In a press conference held Wednesday, Hoover Police Chief Nick Derziz revealed surprising details about the ongoing investigation into the disappearance and subsequent reappearance of Alabama resident, Carlee Russell. The case sparked widespread public concern after Russell’s abrupt disappearance, leaving behind an eerie 911 call, unattended personal belongings, and a trail of odd behaviors.
Prior to her reported disappearance, Carlee Russell left her place of employment, after taking and concealing a dark-colored bathrobe, a roll of toilet paper, and other items that belonged to her employer. After leaving her place of employment, Carlee made stops at a local restaraunt to retrieve a takeout order, then Target, where she purchased a granola bar and Cheez-Its. Video footage shows her vehicle parked at the Target shopping center until 9:21pm that evening.
Russell’s contact with the 911 dispatch center was one of the last known communications before her alleged disappearance. In a chilling call, Carlee reported seeing a white male child walking alone by the side of the interstate. She described the child as wearing only a diaper, and was asked by the 911 operator to wait in her car until the police arrived. Despite her account, no one else reported such an incident, nor was a child reported missing in the area.
After ending her call with the 911 operator, Russell dialed a family member, with whom she was speaking when she abruptly screamed, ending communication. The Hoover Police Department responded swiftly, with officers on the scene within minutes. They found Carlee’s wig and cellphone discarded in the grass, and her purse, Apple Watch, and food order inside her abandoned vehicle. Missing, however, were the items taken from her place of employment and tthe items she purchased from Target.
The extensive search operation for Russell involved numerous local and federal agencies, including Hoover PD’s Drone Unit and other crime scene investigators. The search extended throughout Friday and Saturday, culminating with a surprising turn of events when Russell returned home on foot, as notified to the Hoover 911 center. Surveillance footage acquired during subsequent investigations confirmed Russell walking alone prior to arriving at her residence. She was conscious and communicative when paramedics transported her to UAB Hospital.
In her initial statement to detectives, Russell painted a terrifying picture of her ordeal. She claimed to have been abducted by a man with a bald spot and orange hair after exiting her car on the interstate to check on the child. She described being transported to an 18-wheeler trailer, hearing a baby cry and a female voice in the trailer, and being forced to undress for what she believes were photos, yet she claimed to have no memory of any physical or sexual assault. The next day, she claimed to have been fed cheese crackers and had her hair played with by the female, but her memory afterward remained vague. She said she was able to escape once from the trailer once, but was recaptured. She then said she was placed in a vehicle, where she was eventually able to successfully escape, having to run through woods to reach her home.
Upon an initial examination, detectives noted a minor lip injury and complaints of a headache from Russell, in addition to finding $107 in cash inside of her sock. Despite the strange and alarming nature of her account, detectives refrained from pressing further, allowing her time to rest before the next round of inquiries.
The next phase of the investigation involved the analysis of Russell’s cell phone data. Surprising internet searches during the days before her disappearance were revealed, including the following queries: “do you have to pay for an Amber Alert?”, “how to take money from a register without being caught”, “Birmingham bus station” and a search for a one way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville was conducted with a departure date of July 13.
On July 13, at 12:10 pm, a search for the movie Taken, a film about an abduction was searched. There were also two subsequent searches conducted about Amber Alerts on a computer at Carlee’s place of employment, including one regarding the maximum age of an Amber Alert.
Other searches that may reveal Carlee’s mental state during the days leading up to her disappearance were deemed private and will not be disclosed at this time.
Detectives have not yet been granted a second interview with Russell and authorities are still working diligently to assemble the pieces of this puzzle. The dramatic unfolding of Carlee Russell’s disappearance and return continues to grip the public’s attention, as more questions than answers remain in this captivating case.
At this time, no charges have been brought against Carlee and the investigation is still ongoing.