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Carlee Russell, Black woman goes missing on Alabama highway

Source: Carlee Russell/Facebook / Carlee Russell/Facebook

The internet search history in Carlee Russell‘s phone was among some of the biggest revelations presented by the Hoover Police Department during a press conference Wednesday afternoon about the investigation into the young Black woman’s disappearance in Alabama.

Russell, 25, first gained attention when she called 911 to report an unaccompanied toddler on the side of a major highway. Her family later contacted 911 to suggest she had been abducted while checking on the toddler, sparking a massive statewide manhunt and prompting national media coverage until she reappeared and her parents’ home late Sunday night.

With little information about the investigation and its findings being made public and falling victim to widespread speculation, officials in Hoover said they wanted to clear up any misconceptions with Wednesday’s press conference.

Some of the details they provided suggest Russell may have had an ulterior motive in making the 911 call as they have still found “no evidence there was even a small child” to begin with.

Most terrifyingly, Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis told reporters that Russell claimed she was kidnapped by a white man with orange hair, forced over a fence and into an 18-wheeler truck, where she was blindfolded but not bound and could hear the sounds of a baby and a woman’s voice. Derzis said Russell also told police that she was able to flee before being captured again. No physical or sexual contact was alleged, Derzis said. But on Sunday, Russell told police she was placed into another vehicle from which she successfully escaped by running through the woods until she emerged near her parents’ home.

Derzis said he noticed Russell has a small cut on her lip, a torn shirt and $107 in her right sock.

In addition to the in-person questioning, law enforcement officials utilized technology to try to fill in the blanks.

When examining the search history of Russell’s phone, Derzis said a wealth of information was uncovered.

One internet search on Russell’s phone from July 11 — two days before she was reported missing — was for the term “do you have to pay for an amber alert,” a reference to an emergency response system triggered when a child is reported as being abducted.

In the early morning hours of Thursday, the day Russell was reported missing, a search on her phone was performed for the term “how to take money from a register without being caught.”

A couple of hours later, another search was made for the Birmingham bus station, Derzis said.

Soon after, another search was made for a one-way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville, Tennessee.

Later that afternoon, Derzis said a search on Russell’s phone was made about the movie Taken, a blockbuster hit in which a teenager is kidnapped.

When asked about the significance of that search in particular, Derzis said, “I find that very strange.”

Derzis also said two more searches about Amber Alerts were made from a computer at Russell’s place of employment. 

Notably, Derzis suggested Russell stole a bathrobe and other items belonging to her employer in the hours before she was reported missing. Russell also picked up food she ordered from a Greek restaurant, bought snacks from a Target store and stayed in the parking lot there until she drove to the highway where she reported the unaccompanied toddler, Derzis said.

However, when officers arrived at the side of Interstate 459 South, they only saw Russell’s car idling with one door open and her phone, watch and purse still inside. While the Greek food was also still there, the snacks and the bathrobe were not, Derzis said.

“We’ve been unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial story given to investigators, we do not believe there is a threat to public safety,” Derzis told reporters.

When asked if Russell committed a crime, Derzis hedged his words carefully and said officials haven’t reached that portion of their investigation yet.

Derzis said a request to interview Russell for a second time was not immediately granted.

Watch the full press conference below.

On Tuesday, Russell’s parents spoke out and said their daughter “was not in a good state.”


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