BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — In the days since a Hoover woman went missing and then safely walked home, police continue to investigate what happened to her.
On Wednesday, Hoover Police Chief Nicholas Derzis held a press conference to address the ongoing investigation into the disappearance and unexplained reappearance of Carlee Russell, a 25-year-old woman who became the focus of international attention after she reported allegedly seeing a child walking along I-459 near Hoover after she had gotten off work July 13.
Police arriving where Russell had reported seeing the child found her car empty and no sign of her. She was subsequently declared missing, and a widespread search was conducted to find her.
On July 15, Russell was found safe. Her family told police that she had walked home. She was later taken to UAB Hospital for treatment and gave a statement to police, where she claimed she had been abducted.
Listen to Carlee Russell’s 911 call here:
From the time she disappeared to the days since she returned home, many questions regarding what happened to Russell have risen in both the community and online. During their preliminary investigation, police reported they could not find any evidence of a child walking along the interstate in the area or had any reports of a missing child.
Recently, Russell’s family claimed that she was abducted and that the person responsible was still out there.
“Let me say up front that this investigation is not over, and we are working this case for the 49 hours that Carlee Russell was missing,” Derzis said during the press conference.
Speaking to media, Derzis played audio from the 911 call Russell made to police, claiming to have seen a white toddler wearing a white shirt and diaper, walking along the interstate. Derzis said this was the only call dispatchers received about a child walking along I-459 that night.
Derzis also revealed a statement Russell had given to police after she had been found. Derzis said Russell told officers that while she checking on the child, an unidentified man came out from the woods and said he was also checking on the child. She then said he grabbed her, made her jump a fence and get into a car. She said she was then kept in a trailer of a tractor-trailer, which she allegedly escaped from on foot, but was captured, put in a car and taken to a house as she was blindfolded.
Derzis said Russell reported that she was made to get on a bed in the house, where they took photos of her. She then said the was fed cheese crackers the next day by an unidentified woman. Russell then told police that while they were driving her in another car, she was able to escape while on the west side of Hoover. Derzis said that Russell had $107 in her right sock when she was found at home.
In addition, Derzis revealed search history that had been taken from Russell’s phone. He gave brief descriptions of a handful of internet searches Russell had allegedly made from her phone in the days before she went missing.
Derzis discussed the following searches Russell reportedly made.
- Tuesday, July 11, 7:30 a.m.- “You have to pay for an Amber alert”
- Thursday, July 13, 1:03 a.m.- “How to take money from a register without being caught”
- Thursday, July 13, 2:13 a.m.- “Birmingham bus station”
- Thursday, July 13, 2:35 a.m.- A search for a one-way ticket from Birmingham to Nashville with a departure date of July 13.
- Thursday, July 13, 12:10 p.m.- A search for the movie “Taken.”
- Two searches related to Amber alerts on a computer at Carlee’s place of employment, including one regarding the maximum age of an Amber alert.
- Other searches on her phone, but “out of respect for her privacy” would not release out of respect for Russell’s privacy.
While maintaining that police were still investigating the case, Derzis questioned some aspects of the case, including Russell’s search history.
“We want to talk in facts, and I do think it’s highly unusual that the day that someone gets kidnapped, that seven to eight hours before that, that they’re searching the internet, Googling the movie ‘Taken’ about an abduction,” he said. “I find that very strange.”
Another aspect of the case Derzis questioned was where Russell was during her initial call to police. He said that according to cell phone data, she traveled 600 yards in her car while she was on the call with police, claiming she was following the alleged child during that time.
“To think that a toddler, barefoot, that could be 3-or-4 years old, is going to travel six football fields without getting in the roadway, without crying… it’s just very hard for me to understand,” he said.
Derzis said officers were seeking to interview Russell for a second time about what happened but had not been able to as of Wednesday.
“We’ll figure it out, I promise you that,” he said. “We’ll figure it out.”