Carlee Russell charged after fabricating story about kidnapping, toddler

Posted at 2:54 PM, July 28, 2023 and last updated 4:57 PM, July 28, 2023

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Authorities in Alabama said Friday they have filed criminal charges against a woman who confessed to fabricating a story that she was kidnapped after stopping to check on a toddler she saw walking on the side of the interstate. She has been charged with misdemeanor false reporting to law enforcement and falsely reporting an incident.

Woman smiles in a photo

Carlee Russell smiles in a mugshot after charges were filed against her on July 28, 2023. (Hoover Police Department)

Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis announced the charges against Carlee Russell at a news conference. He said she turned herself into jail Friday and was released on bond.

“Her decisions that night created panic and alarm for 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,” he said.

Derzis said he was frustrated that Russell was only being charged with two misdemeanors despite the panic and disruption she caused, but he said the law did not allow for enhanced charges.

MORE: Missing Woman Mystery: Police Detail Carlee Russell Disappearance

Russell, 25, disappeared after calling 911 on July 13 to report a toddler wandering beside a stretch of interstate. She returned home two days later and told police she had been abducted and forced into a vehicle.

Her disappearance became a national news story. Images of the missing woman were shared broadly on social media.

Her attorney, Emory Anthony, said she made the story up. In a statement read by police Monday, Anthony said Russell was not kidnapped, did not see a baby on the side of the road, did not leave the city and acted alone. He said Russell apologized and he asked for prayers and forgiveness as she “addresses her issues and attempts to move forward, understanding that she made a mistake in this matter.”

Russell told detectives she was taken by a man who came out of the trees when she stopped to check on the child, put her in a car and an 18-wheel truck, blindfolded her and held her at a home where a woman fed her cheese crackers, authorities said at a news conference last week. At some point, Russell said she was put in a vehicle again but managed to escape and run through the woods to her neighborhood.