By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
Using information from Carlee Russell’s cell phone and her initial 911 call, Hoover Police have been unable to verify some statements made by the 25-year-old who was reported missing on July 13, said Chief Nick Derzis on Wednesday.
During the 23-minute-long press conference, Derzis, provided copious details on the case, which has drawn widespread local and national coverage.
“We’ve been unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statement made to investigators, and we have no reason to believe that there is a threat of the public safety related to this particular case,” Derzis said.
The chief on Wednesday shared some details that he said baffled his detectives. For example, Russell reported, during her initial 911 call, a toddler on the side of I-459. Derzis said investigators determined that Russell drove 600 yards during the almost three minutes she was on the phone with emergency personnel.
“To think that a toddler, barefoot, that could be three or four years old, is going to travel six football fields without getting in the roadway, without crying…it’s just very hard for me to understand,” Derzis said.
Derzis also pointed to web searches made from Russell’s phone and computer in the days leading up to her disappearance, including “Do you have to pay for an Amber Alert” and one regarding “the maximum age of an Amber Alert,” Derzis said.
The web searches also included “Taken,” a fictional film about the abduction of a young woman; queries for Birmingham bus tickets and how to steal money from a cash register without getting caught, according to Derzis.
Additionally, Derzis said Russell took a number of items from the spa at which she is employed, including a bathrobe and a roll of toilet paper. Russell also stopped at a Target retail store and purchased granola bars and cheese crackers, prior to the 911 call and disappearance, Derzis said.
According to Hoover Police Department, Russell called 911 at about 9:34 p.m. on July 13 to report that a toddler was walking on the side of I-459. After getting off the phone with 911, Russell then called a family member as Russell stopped and checked on the toddler, according to police. Russell then reportedly disappeared not long after.
The 25-year-old returned home Saturday evening and was taken to UAB Hospital, police said.
When investigators arrived at Russell’s house shortly after her return on Saturday, Russell had a small injury on her lip, said her head was hurting, had a tear on her shirt, as well as $107 in cash inside her right sock.
In her initial statement to police, Russell told detectives that she was abducted by a white man with orange hair and a bald spot, Derzis said.
“She stated that when she got out of her vehicle to check on the child, a man came out of the trees and mumbled that he was checking on the baby. She claimed that the man then picked her up, and she screamed,” said the chief.
From there, Russell said she was “forced” to climb over a fence and enter a car. “The next thing she remembers” is being inside the trailer of an 18-wheeler. There was a woman present, but Russell said she only heard the woman.
Russell said she was able to escape the trailer but was caught while fleeing on foot, according to Derzis. After being forced into another car, Russell said she was taken to a house where she was blindfolded and made to undress. Russell said she believes pictures were taken of her, according to police.
Russell was then put back in the car, which she escaped somewhere in the West Hoover area, and after running through “lots of woods,” she emerged near her home, Derzis said.
Derzis said there are still plenty of unanswered questions.
“We pretty much know exactly what took place from the time she left work until she got on the 911 call, and we can see [her] getting out of the car on the interstate, from [traffic camera] footage, and after that, I think she only knows,” Derzis said.