Woman Who Vanished on Interstate Found Safe

Carlee Russell in Alabama had told police she saw a toddler on side of the road
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 15, 2023 5:30 AM CDT
Updated Jul 16, 2023 7:50 AM CDT
Woman Stops to Help Toddler Wandering on Interstate, Vanishes
Carlee Russell is shown in a series of photos. The 25-year-old is listed as 5'3" and 150lbs, and she was last seen wearing a black shirt, black pants and white Nike shoes.   (Alabama Law Enforcement Agency)
UPDATE Jul 16, 2023 7:50 AM CDT

An Alabama woman who disappeared after reporting a toddler wandering on the side of an interstate has been found safe, reports CNN. Carlee Russell, 25, "stunned" relatives by showing up at her family's door Saturday night, per the New York Times. She has been taken to a hospital for evaluation, and more questions than answers about the case were in play. Police in Hoover say Russell reported seeing the child Thursday night and pulling over to investigate, but when officers arrived at the scene they found only Russell's vehicle, not her and not any toddler. She remained missing until returning home Saturday. Police say they have received no reports of a missing child.

Jul 15, 2023 5:30 AM CDT

At 9:34pm on Thursday, Carlee Russell called 911 to report that she was driving on I-459 in Alabama when she saw a toddler wandering along the side of the interstate. She stopped to check on the little one and called her sister-in-law to tell her what was going on, but at some point during that call, Russell screamed and then stopped communicating—though the line remained open. By the time police arrived minutes later, having been dispatched after the 911 call, neither the 25-year-old Alabama woman nor the toddler she had reported seeing were there, AL.com reports. Russell's vehicle was still there, still running with its door open. Her cellphone, wig, and hat were on the ground near the car, while her purse was still inside. Police so far do not know of any small children reported missing in the area, Fox 5 reports.

A search for Russell is underway, with a $25,000 reward being offered, WBRC reports. Her family says Russell had left work, picked up food, and was minutes away from home when she disappeared. Her mother says of the final phone call, "my daughter-in-law could hear [Russell] asking the child if they were OK. The child did not respond, or at least she did not hear her respond, he or she respond. And then she heard our daughter Carlee scream and from there on all we could hear was [highway] noise." A tipster reported seeing a man near Russell's car shortly before police arrived. The family says it refuses to give up hope. "We are trusting God, we are staying positive, we are not allowing any negative thoughts to enter our minds so all that we are doing is trusting God, believe in God that our daughter will be brought home safely," Russell's mother says. (More missing woman stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.