The plot thickens in the mysterious disappearance of Carlethia “Carlee” Russell. In a press conference, the Hoover Police Department clarified some details regarding the case and shared a new discovery that Russell made searches related to Amber Alerts days before she went missing.
Do not be surprised if you leave this page with more questions than answers. Here are the main takeaways from the press conference:
Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said Russell left her job at 8:20 p.m. July 13. Surveillance footage showed her concealing a dark-colored bathrobe, roll of toilet paper and other items belonging to her place of employment. After picking up the food she ordered, she went to Target where she bought some granola bars and Cheez-It’s. Only the food she ordered was found in the vehicle when the police arrived.
Chief Derzis said surveillance footage caught Russell’s vehicle riding along the side of I-459 but the only figure that appeared in the video was her getting out of her car. Derzis said she drove 600 yards, or the length of six football fields, following the child. Surveillance video near Russell’s home recorded her walking down the sidewalk alone prior to arriving to her house and appeared conscious.
The recording of Carlee’s 911 call was played during the conference. In the call, she told the dispatcher she was driving on on I-459 and saw a kid walking by themselves right by the exit.
“There’s just a kid walking by theirselves... I think it’s a little boy... [he’s wearing] a white tee shirt and it doesn’t look like he has any pants on. It looks like a diaper,” she said on the call.
She described them as a 3- or 4-year-old baby. The dispatcher asked if the child had apparent injuries to which Russell responded negative because she couldn’t see that well. She gave the description of her vehicle, a red Mercedes-Benz sedan, and told the dispatcher she had her hazard lights on. During the call, Russell said she hadn’t made communication with the toddler but agreed at request of the dispatcher to follow the kid to keep an eye on him.
Chief Derzis said Russell gave a brief statement prior to her being transported for evaluation the night she returned home. She told the police she saw a baby on the side of the interstate and called 911. Things escalated when she got out of the car.
“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,” the chief said. “She stated the man made her go over a fence, she claimed he then forced her into a car and the next thing she remembers is being in the trailer of an 18-wheeler.”
Russell told the police the man was a white male with orange hair and was with a female and heard a baby crying. She stated that she tried to escape once but was captured and put into a car and blindfolded. The abductors allegedly agreed not to tie her up because they didn’t want to “impression her wrists.”
Russell told detectives the man and woman took her to house, made her undress and took pictures but cited no physical or sexual contact. She said she woke up the next day and was fed cheese crackers by the woman who also allegedly played with her hair. At some point she said she was put back into a vehicle and tried to escape somewhere in the West Hoover area. Russell said she ran through the woods and came out near her home with a bruised lip, torn shirt and $170 cash in her right sock.
The chief said on July 11th at 7:30 a.m., Russell searched for whether you have to “pay for an Amber Alert.” On July 13th at 1:03 a.m. was a search for “how to take money from a register without being caught.” Only the same day, an hour later, was searched “Birmingham bus station” and 30 minutes following that was a search for a one-way ticket leaving from Birmingham to Nashville.
By 12 p.m. that afternoon, the police found a search for the famous abduction movie, “Taken.” Then, two more searches related to an Amber Alert were conducted on a computer at Russell’s job including the “maximum age” of an Amber Alert, per the chief. There were also two more searches on Russell’s phone related to her mindset but the chief declined to disclose the content for her privacy.
In the end, the chief confirmed there is no current threat to public safety nor is there a concern of an abductor being loose in Hoover. Derzis also said there are no indications of mental illness or illegal substances from Russell’s evaluation and toxicology report. The FBI and Secret Service have been pulled to aid in the investigation. The department looks forward to an “in depth” interview with Russell when she’s ready to speak again.