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Carlee Russell is charged with kidnapping hoax

Carlee Russell, the Alabama nursing student who said she was kidnapped, was charged with two misdemeanors in connection with the hoax, Hoover police announced Friday.
Hoover Police Department
Carlee Russell, the Alabama nursing student who said she was kidnapped, was charged with two misdemeanors in connection with the hoax, Hoover police announced Friday.

Updated July 28, 2023 at 4:05 PM ET

Carlee Russell, the Alabama nursing student who went missing for two days after telling 911 she found a stranded toddler, has been charged with two misdemeanors in connection with the hoax, according to police.

The 25-year-old is being charged with falsely reporting to law enforcement officers and falsely reporting an incident, Hoover Police Chief Nicholas Derzis told reporters Friday at a news conference.

"I know many are shocked and appalled that Miss Russell is only being charged with two misdemeanors, despite all the panic and disruption her actions caused," Derzis said. "Let me assure you, I too share the same frustration." He said the existing laws allow only those charges to be filed.

Each charge carries a bond of $1,000 and is punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $6,000 fine, Derzis said. Russell was later released from jail after posting bond.

"Her decisions that night created panic and alarm for the citizens of our city and even across the nation as concern grew that a kidnapper was on the loose using a small child as bait," Derzis said. "The story opened wounds for families whose loved ones really were victims of kidnappings, some of which even helped organize searches."

The investigation will now be handled by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall's office.

Derzis told reporters that no charges have been filed against Russell's family members or any other individuals, but he said additional charges may be filed as the attorney general's office continues its investigation.

News of Russell's charges comes days after she admitted she was not kidnapped and did not see a young child stranded on the side of the interstate highway.

In a statement given by Russell's attorney to the Hoover Police Department this week, Russell apologized for her actions — adding that no one else was involved in her disappearance.

"We ask for your prayers for Carlee as she addresses her issues and attempts to move forward understanding that she made a mistake in this matter," Derzis read from the statement at a news conference on Monday afternoon.

Russell had been expected to meet with police earlier that day, but instead her attorney, Emory Anthony, gave the department a written update.

It remains unclear why Russell fabricated a story about a stranded child and why she went off the grid for 49 hours.

She initially told authorities that she was abducted

Russell went missing on July 13 after telling a 911 dispatcher that she found a toddler wandering on the side of an interstate highway, according to the police. When officers arrived on the scene, Russell and the child were nowhere to be found.

Her car, wig and cellphone were found on the roadway.

Russell's disappearance and the mysterious circumstances surrounding it made national headlines before she returned home on July 15.

At the time, Russell told detectives that she was kidnapped by a man who emerged from the trees near her car when she got out to check on the toddler. She told detectives that she was blindfolded and taken to a house where she was forced to get undressed.

Russell said she managed to escape the next day and ran through the woods until she emerged near her house. Derzis told reporters on Monday that the Hoover Police Department had believed since last week that Russell's kidnapping was a hoax.

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Jonathan Franklin
Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.
Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.