Carlethia “Carlee” Nichole Russell, a 25-year-old nursing student from Alabama, was charged with two misdemeanors on Friday for falsely claiming she was kidnapped earlier this month.
Russell was charged with hoax kidnapping to law enforcement and lying about an incident, according to Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis. According to Derzis, both counts are Class A misdemeanors with a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $6,000 fine if convicted. Derzis stated that the charges were filed in municipal court.
Russell voluntarily surrendered to law authorities for hoax kidnapping and was booked and processed at the Hoover City Jail, according to Derzis. Derzis stated that she was freed on a $1,000 bond for each of the charges.
Derzis stated that he “shares the same frustrations” as others who called and wrote his office to express their disappointment that just minor charges could be filed against Russell for committing hoax kidnapping. He stated that he will push state legislators to “improve” current legislation for persons who report a bogus crime.
Derzis also asked Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall for help with an additional inquiry into the situation. Marshall stated on Friday that his office will “continue to monitor if additional charges are warranted in this case,” and that the attorney general’s office is not uncommon to be involved in a misdemeanor case inquiry.
During the Friday press conference, a journalist asked if the police would treat future missing persons investigations, whether it’s a real or hoax kidnappings, involving young Black and Brown women as seriously as they did Russell’s. Derzis said that they would, and Marshall agreed, noting that he has been a cop for 27 years.
“I’ve never seen anyone interested in the color of your skin in investigating a criminal case, and I expect that when that report is filed, Alabama law enforcement will do its job,” Marshall added.
Russell contacted 911 on July 13 to report a missing youngster on the side of the highway. She then vanished without a trace after calling a family member, sparking a huge search involving local, state, and federal officials. Russell showed up at her parent’s house at about 10:45 p.m. on July 15, just two days after she went missing, according to investigators.
According to her, a man scooped her up, forced her over the highway fence, and into a vehicle. Russell told officers she was being held in a tractor-trailer with an orange-haired male and a lady. Russell informed police that her kidnappers photographed her and fed her cheese crackers. These acts were now disclosed as hoax kidnapping.
Investigators became suspicious of her statement after they couldn’t uncover any other proof of a missing toddler on a highway, despite the fact that multiple other cars had passed that section of highway, according to the Hoover Police Department. They also identified a series of online queries Russell had done previous to the hoax kidnapping, including ones for “Amber Alerts” and “how to take money from a register without getting caught.”
Russell issued a statement to the Alabama community through her attorney a week after her return, saying the hoax kidnapping was fabricated, there was no baby, and “this was a single act.” She asked for forgiveness from the community, the volunteers who searched for her, and the Hoover Police Department.
In the instance of hoax kidnapping, the “victim” frequently does so for sympathy or attention; other times, the story is told to cover up illegal or embarrassing actions. Many people have reported a stolen vehicle and stated that a child was also taken in order for the police to prioritize the report.