A smiling Alabama woman was charged with the headline-grabbing prank on Friday after she admitted to staging her own kidnapping and triggering a large two-day manhunt. Nursing student Carlee Russell, 26, “disappeared” on July 13 and was charged with false reporting to police and fraudulently reporting an incident on Friday.
Hoover Police Chief Nick Gerzis stated at a press conference that the maximum penalties for both crimes are one year in jail and a $6,000 fine. Within an hour of the news conference, which took place at 1:30 p.m. local time, Gerzis said that Russell had turned herself in with her attorney, Emory Anthony, at the Hoover City Jail.
He went on to say that she was taken into custody but later freed after posting bond in the amount of $2,000. In his brief remarks, Alabama’s attorney general, Steve Marshall, hailed the “monumental” efforts of the Hoover Police Department throughout the 49 hours Carlee was missing and the investigation that followed.
Marshall added that his staff would be keeping an eye on things in case more charges are brought. The “significant hours spent” and “resources expended” on Russell’s behalf are evidence that “we don’t see this as a victimless crime,” he said.
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“We intend to fully prosecute this case, and look forward to working with the Hoover Police Department moving forward,” he said. Although Gerzis was unable to comment on Russell’s mood, WVTM was able to obtain video of her leaving Anthony’s office with her parents, in which she can be seen appearing distressed.
Two days after Russell went missing, on July 15, she showed up at her parents’ house. This brief encounter was the first time anyone had seen her since then. Russell was last seen on the evening of July 13 after calling police to report that she was pulling over to save an infant she saw crawling along the shoulder of Interstate 459 in Hoover.
She reappeared two days later, and this time surveillance footage showed her making her way home alone. After returning home, her family contacted 911, and officers found her “conscious and speaking,” even though dispatch had said she was “unresponsive but breathing.”
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Russell’s unusual story of being abducted by a white man with orange hair swiftly broke apart after just one interview with police, especially after it was learned that, days before she vanished, she had googled the kidnap-themed action film “Taken” and the AMBER Alert system.
Russell’s lawyer Emory Anthony said on Monday that his client had lied about seeing the infant and about being kidnapped by a bald white male who took pictures of her naked before she escaped, after first denying seeing the baby for a week.
Emory said at a press conference on Monday that, “There was no kidnapping,” which was read from a prepared statement on Russell’s behalf. My missing person client did not leave the Hoover region before being found. The police “have no idea” where Russell was for those two days, Gerzis said at a press conference on Friday.
Gerzis also admitted that many could be upset that Russell isn’t facing more serious charges for her disturbing antic. The police chief, who stood out in his bright blue plaid outfit, stated that “Russell’s” actions that night caused “panic and alarm” among local residents and people around the country.
In addition, he said he will lobby state legislators to “enhance legislation for when someone falsely reports kidnapping or another violent crime.” Although the AG’s office is still reviewing the case files, both Gerzis and Marshall have stated that Russell’s parents are not now facing charges.
After it was discovered that Russell had stolen toilet paper and a robe from a Woodhouse spa in Birmingham on the day she disappeared, she was sacked from her position there last week. ccording to Gerzis, the theft happened outside of Hoover’s jurisdiction on Friday, so the police there can’t press charges.
Those who stood with Russell as her allegations fell apart will be devastated by the news of her arrest. “There were moments when she physically had to fight for her life, and there were moments when she had to mentally fight for her life,” Talitha Robinson-Russell told NBC News’ Priscilla Thompson.
A Facebook post by her boyfriend, Thomar Latrell Simmons, which has since been removed, read: “She was literally fighting for her life for 48 hours, so until she’s physically & mentally stable again she is not able to give any updates or whereabouts on her kidnapper at this very moment.”
He later told The Post he wanted “everyone to stop bullying her. I know what it seems like what she did. Just stop bullying on social media.” “Think about her mental health. She doesn’t deserve that,” he told The Post exclusively. “She doesn’t. Nobody deserves to be cyberbullied.” After hearing her confession, he claimed to be “blindsided” and “disgusted.”
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