Hoover, Alabama – In a press conference held on Wednesday, Hoover’s police chief, Nicholas Derzis, disclosed new details surrounding the case of Carlethia “Carlee” Russell, a 25-year-old Black nursing student who went missing for 48 hours. Russell’s account to the detectives on the day of her interview shed light on the harrowing events she endured during her disappearance.
According to the police chief, Russell informed the authorities that she had spotted a child walking alongside the road and immediately dialed 911 to check on the young one’s well-being. However, her intentions to help were thwarted when a man allegedly forced her into a vehicle, leading her to scream for help.
The recent revelations come in the wake of statements made by Russell’s parents to NBC News, asserting their belief that she had been abducted on the night of her disappearance. They urged the police to vigorously pursue her alleged abductor, further escalating the urgency of the investigation.
Despite the concerns raised by Russell’s parents, Chief Derzis tempered the possibility of an abduction, reassuring the public that there is no apparent threat to their safety in connection with this particular case. However, he emphasized that the investigation into the circumstances of Russell’s disappearance is still ongoing.
The events that unfolded on the night of July 13th unfolded with a distressing 911 call from Russell reporting a child wandering on I-495. Shortly thereafter, during a conversation with her sister-in-law, Russell mysteriously vanished. Her abrupt disappearance sparked a frantic two-day search that garnered international attention, with her boyfriend, Thomas Latrell Simmons, sharing on social media that she had been battling for her life against at least one potential abductor.
Russell’s mother, Talitha Robinson, recounted that a relative heard her daughter scream during their phone call, followed by background noises from the nearby interstate. Subsequently, the police discovered Russell’s phone discarded near her vehicle, while her purse containing an Apple Watch was found inside.
During Wednesday’s press conference, Chief Derzis noted that Russell’s 911 call remains the sole report of a child on the interstate, despite the area being frequented by numerous vehicles at that time. Furthermore, an analysis of Russell’s cell phone data indicated that she traveled a significant distance of 600 yards, equivalent to six football fields, while following the child she had spotted.
The situation grew more perplexing as investigators uncovered internet searches made on Russell’s cellphone in the hours leading up to her disappearance. The searches included inquiries about “how to pay for an Amber Alert,” “how to take money from a register without being caught,” and queries about the movie “Taken,” which depicts a CIA agent’s efforts to rescue his abducted daughter.
Adding to the mystery, Russell returned to her home on Sunday night, but an anonymous caller alerted the police, claiming she was “unresponsive but breathing.” However, when emergency personnel arrived at the scene, Russell was conscious and able to communicate. Surveillance footage from the neighborhood captured her walking home, prompting Derzis to state that Russell had informed detectives about her escape from her captors, running through the woods before reaching her residence.
In her interview with the police, Russell’s condition indicated a small injury to her lip and expressed that her head was hurting. However, she has so far declined a second interview due to the trauma she experienced, as conveyed by her parents during meetings with the police.
Chief Derzis addressed questions regarding Russell’s mental health history, stating that there is no information suggesting any such condition. Despite the information gathered so far, a veil of uncertainty remains, and the police chief asserted that only Carlee Russell holds the answers to many lingering questions surrounding this puzzling case.