49 Hours of Mystery in Woman's Highway Disappearance

Police say they haven't been able to verify most of Carlee Russell's story
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 20, 2023 12:46 AM CDT
Woman Who Vanished on Highway Says She Escaped From an 18-Wheeler
In this image taken from video provided by ABC 33/40, Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis speaks at a press conference, Wednesday, July 19, 2023, in Hoover, Ala.   (ABC 33/40 via AP)

More strange details are coming out about what allegedly happened to Carlee Russell, the Alabama woman who vanished from an interstate after claiming to have seen a toddler wandering alone on the side of the highway, only to reappear on her family's doorstep two days later. The 25-year-old's parents and boyfriend said she had been abducted, and now police are revealing what Russell told investigators about the alleged kidnapping, AL.com reports. She said that after she saw the child and stopped to help, a man came out from the trees and grabbed her, forcing her into a car. She said the next thing she remembered was being in the trailer of an 18-wheeler, hearing a female voice and a baby's cries along with the voice of her male abductor, and that she escaped once before being caught, taken into a house, and made to undress.

She said she thought pictures were taken of her while she was naked, but that she does not remember any "physical or sexual contact." At some point she was put back in the car and was able to escape, running through woods until she found her way home. Police, however, say they haven't been able to verify most of Russell's story, and that they've found no evidence of a child wandering along the highway, CBS News reports. They also released details of what police called "very strange" web searches she'd made in the days prior to her disappearance, including, per Fox News:

  • "Do you have to pay for an amber alert"
  • "How to take money from register without getting caught"
  • "Birmingham bus station"
  • She searched for a one-way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville
  • She searched for the movie Taken
  • She searched for the maximum age for an Amber Alert
  • Police said there were other internet searches "that appeared to shed some light on her mindset" but that out of respect for her privacy, those won't be released at this time.

"We have asked to interview Carlee a second time, but have not been granted that request, There are many questions left to be answered, but only Carlee can provide those answers," Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said at a press conference. "What we can say is we've been unable to verify most of Carlee's initial statement made to investigators. We have no reason to believe that there is a threat to public safety related to this particular case." He also pointed out Russell drove the length of six football fields while she said she was following the toddler, and he cast doubt on the idea of a toddler walking so far along the interstate without veering into the roadway. (More Alabama stories.)

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