Russell told investigators in a brief interview Saturday night that she was abducted by an orange-haired man and a woman. You haven’t spoken to her again.
Carlee Russell did some “really weird” internet research in the hours leading up to her disappearance last week, according to police, who revealed what she told them in the brief interview they conducted with her after they went into the… returned to her family home.
Hoover Police Chief Nicholas Derzis said at a news conference Wednesday that investigators “were unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statements to investigators” who spoke to her at the University of Alabama-Birmingham Hospital, where she was taken Saturday night was after she got back home.
“We’re ready to talk as soon as she’s ready,” Derzis said. “If she calls now, we’re ready.”
However, Russell’s parents told police “that she wasn’t ready to talk.”
In that first brief interview, Russell told investigators “that as she was driving down the freeway, she saw a baby walking along the side of the road and called 911,” Derzis said. “As she got out of her vehicle to check on the child, a man came out of the trees and murmured that he was checking on the baby.”
“Then this man picked her up and she screamed. Then he let her go over a fence. He then forced her into a car, and the next thing she remembers, she was in the trailer of an 18-wheel truck. She stated that the man was with a woman, but she never saw the woman, only heard her voice. She also told investigators she could hear a baby crying.”
Russell described the man as having orange hair and a bald patch on his back. Derzis said she escaped the 18-wheeler and fled on foot, only to be captured again and put in a car. She was then blindfolded but not tied up as the kidnappers said they didn’t want to leave marks on her wrists.”
“She said they took her to a house and made her undress,” the boss said. “She thinks they took pictures of her but doesn’t recall them having physical or sexual contact with her. She stated that she woke up the next day and was fed cheese crackers by the woman.
Russell said the woman played with her hair but couldn’t remember anything else.
“At one point she was put back in a vehicle she allegedly escaped from while it was in west Hoover. She told investigators that she ran through many woods until she got close to where she lived,” Derzis said.
“During this interview, investigators discovered that Carlee had a small laceration on her lip and was complaining of a headache. She also had a rip in her shirt. Investigators also found she had $107 in cash in her right sock.”
Investigators found that Russell searched “Do you have to pay for an amber alarm?” two days before calling 911 to report an infant traveling alone on Interstate 459. Early the next day, she searched “how to withdraw money from the register without getting caught on Reddit” and an hour later “Birmingham Bus Station.”
Minutes later, she was looking for a one-way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville, Tennessee, departing on July 13 (Thursday). And just after noon that day, she was looking for the film Taken, a Liam Neeson vehicle about a kidnapping.
On a computer at Russell’s place of work at Woodhouse Day Spa, there were two other searches on Amber Alerts, including one asking for the maximum age for the alert.
Derzis said there have been other searches of Russell’s phone “which appear to shed some light on her thinking, but out of respect for her privacy we will not be releasing the contents of those searches at this time.”
Russell left work around 8:20 p.m. Thursday night, police said, taking with him a hidden “dark robe, a roll of toilet paper and other items belonging to the company prior to her departure.”
She ordered food from Taziki’s in the Colonnade and drove there to pick it up. She then went to a Target on US280 where she bought Cheez-Its, granola bars and a drink and stayed in the parking lot until she pulled onto the freeway at about 9:21 p.m.
At 9:34 p.m., she called 911 and reported seeing a male toddler in a T-shirt and diaper on the freeway. Two minutes later, she reported the same story to her brother’s friend. The friend reported asking Russell, “Are you alright?” but no response before hearing a scream.
Traffic camera footage showed Russell’s car slowing to a halt and the hazard lights flashing near the 11 kilometer marker. She gets out of the car, but the video wasn’t clear enough to show more.
Radio traffic from dispatchers shows officers arrived at the scene five minutes later and found no sign of Russell or an infant. They found her purse in her still-moving vehicle, and her phone and wig on the curb in front of the car. Officers discuss calling nearby homes to see if an infant is missing and requesting a drone to check the area.
“The food she ordered from Taziki’s was also in her car. “The items she purchased from Target, as well as the items she took from her place of work, were not in the vehicle nor were they found at the scene,” Derzis said.
And there was no sign of Russell.
Family members suddenly arrived at a nearby Red Roof Inn early Saturday night and said they received a call from Russell that she was there. The police also responded, but again there was no sign of Russell.
Almost four hours later, however, she was standing in front of her parents’ front door. According to police, surveillance video showed her walking down the sidewalk prior to her arrival.
“The investigation continues”
Derzis said he felt it was important to speak out so the public could hear what they learned.
“Because of the public interest, and in some cases the public fear, this story has provoked, we owe it to our citizens to tell them the facts that we have uncovered at this time,” he said.
Derzis said he spoke to Russell’s family earlier Wednesday.
“I just wanted them to understand that we were going to hold a press conference today and what we were going to say in detail today were facts,” he said. “Everything I have told you today is a fact. It’s not about innuendos, it’s not about what I or these detectives think, it’s about the information we have.”
Russell’s family said they assume their daughter was kidnapped and “fighting for her life” for at least some of the time she was missing.
Derzis said, “There are still many questions to be answered, but only Carlee can provide those answers.”
“I find it very unusual that the day someone is kidnapped, seven hours prior to that, they searched the internet and googled the movie Taken about a kidnapping,” Derzis said. “I find that really strange.”
Derzis also said the story about the toddler was also difficult to understand. Russell drove about 600 meters, he said while speaking on the phone about the child, who Russell said was barefoot.
“To think that a barefoot toddler, who could be 3 or 4 years old, can walk six football pitches without getting on the street, without crying, but just keep walking, is very difficult for me to understand,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said, “the investigation continues” as investigators try to find out what happened in the 49 hours that Russell went missing.
“That’s the $100 question,” he said. “We know pretty well what happened from the time she left work to the time she called 911. We see her get out of the car and after that only she knows.”
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[Featured image: Carlee Russell/Hoover Police Department]
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