After days of public demand for more information in the disappearance of Carlee Russell, the Hoover Police Department held a press conference to share several pieces of evidence in the case. Wednesday, Hoover’s police chief and mayor briefed the media on the findings in the investigation so far.
Russell went missing July 13 after making a phone call to 911 stating she saw a toddler walking along a busy highway in Hoover. By the time police showed up to the scene of the call, Russell was gone. Her car was left running and her cellphone and wig were left on the ground nearby. Family believed someone abducted her, possibly using the toddler as bait. Russell showed back up to her family’s home July 15 about 49 hours after going missing. Since her return, the public discourse has shifted from concern to speculation. Many online, questioning if the disappearance was part of an elaborate hoax rather than an abduction.
Some of the most shocking evidence that came out of Wednesday’s press conference were Google searches that police say Russell made prior to her disappearance. According to police, the following terms were searched by Russell:
July 11 at 7:30 am – “Do you have to pay for an Amber Alert”
July 13 at 1:03 am – “How to take money from a register without being caught”
July 13 at 2:13 am -“Birmingham bus station”
July 13 at 2:35 am – “One way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville”
July 13 – Search for movie “Taken,” a film about a woman being abducted
Police also said that Russell made an additional search from a computer at her job, Woodhouse Spa. That search was for information about the maximum age for an Amber Alert. Police Chief Nick Derzis added there were other searches that give insight into her mindset at the time. However, he did not release those to protect Russell’s privacy.
While the police chief maintained a high level of objectivity during the press conference he did note that Russell’s searches were, at the least, odd.
“I do think it’s highly unusual that the day that someone gets kidnapped, that 7 hours before that they are googling the internet searching the movie ‘Taken.’ I find that very strange,” Derzis said.
New Timeline Insights
Along with sharing Russell’s Google searches, police shared new information on the timeline leading up to her disappearance.
Derzis says that on July 13 Russell left work at Woodhouse Spa. Surveillance video shows Russell concealed a dark colored bath robe, a roll of toilet paper and other items while exiting her job. She then went to a restaurant, ordered food and traveled to a nearby Target store. While there she purchased Cheez-its and granola bars. Derzis says she then stayed in the parking lot before driving to the interstate where she called 911.
An Odd Call to 911
During the press conference police played the 911 call that Russell made on July 13. In it, the 25 year old can be heard telling a dispatcher that she spotted a toddler on the side of the highway. She said that the child was wearing only a t-shirt and a diaper. Russell also told the dispatcher the child appeared to be a male and was not injured.
“Data from Carlees phone including her Life 360 app shows she traveled approximately 600 yards in her vehicle while she was on the phone with 911 stating she was following a child,” Derzis stated.
The chief said Russell claimed to be following the child as she drove.
“To think a toddler barefoot that could be 3 or 4 years old could travel 6 football fields without getting into the road, its hard for me to understand,” Derzis said.
Alleged Abductor Description
Also revealed in the press conference, were new details on what Russell claims happened to her when she was allegedly abducted.
Derzis says, Russell claims a man came out of the woods when she exited her vehicle to check on the toddler. She says the man mumbled something to her and then grabbed her making her go over a fence. According to Derzis, Russell told investigators the man was accompanied by a female who she never saw but did hear. The male allegedly had orange hair with a big bald spot in the back. Russell told police she was placed into the back of an 18 wheeler and was able to escape but was recaptured. While kidnapped, Russell told police her abductors took pictures of her but did not physically or sexually assault her. She says she was eventually put into a car and that is when she was able to escape while in West Hoover.
Upon her return home, police report seeing a small injury to Russell’s lip and noted she had $107 in her right sock.
The police chief says that while they are still investigating, he does not feel there is an abductor on the loose and he is confident the public is not in danger.
What Does This Mean for Future Abducted Women
Many people online have questioned how this incident may impact future searches for missing Black women who often don’t get as much attention or as many resources when they disappear. The police chief says when it comes to his department, nothing will change.
“We investigate every crime to the fullest just like we have this one,” Derzis said.
What Happens Next
Derzis says the $100 dollar question is, where did Carlee Russell go during the 49 hours she was missing? He says his department continues to investigate that. Russell gave police a brief statement shortly after returning home but Derzis says they would like to speak to her again and have not been able to.
“We are ready to talk as soon as she’s ready,” Derzis said.
The chief wouldn’t say if a crime has been committed in the case. But he says they aren’t done working to get to the bottom of the entire ordeal.
“It is a little frustrating that all this has been done and we can’t figure this out,” Derzis said. “I’m very happy that Carlee is home. That’s the main ingredient here. We’ll figure it out. I promise you that.”