Police said Wednesday they could not verify initial statements made by Carlee Russell, the Alabama woman who disappeared last week after she said she saw a toddler walking on the interstate.
But officials said before she went missing, she did Internet searches about paying for Amber Alerts, how to get money from a program without getting caught and the movie “Take.”
Police said Russell told them she was forced into an 18-wheeler truck and taken to a house where a man and woman told her not to get dressed, then photographed her.
Police in Hoover, a city about 10 miles south of Birmingham, are investigating the disappearance of the 25-year-old nursing student, who returned home two days after she went missing Thursday night.
During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Hoover Police Chief Nicholas C. Derzis said what happened during the 49 hours Russell was missing, after calling 911 and saying that a child was walking on the interstate, is still under investigation.
Derzis said investigators spoke with Russell on Sunday, who had a small injury to her lip and said she had a head injury. She told police that after seeing the young child walking on the interstate, she was abducted and taken by a man with orange hair and a woman, Derzis said.
“She claimed he then forced her into a car and the next thing she remembers was being in the trailer on an 18-wheeler,” Derzis said. “She said the man was with a woman. However, she did not see the female, only hearing her voice.”
Derzis said Russell told police she managed to escape her captors the next day somewhere in West Hoover and made it home on foot.
But Derzis said investigators were unable to reconcile many of Russell’s claims.
“We can say that we have not been able to verify most of Carlee’s initial statements made to investigators. And we have no reason to believe that there is a threat to public safety related to this particular case.”
Derzis also said that investigators, with the help of the United States Secret Service, analyzed Russell’s cell phone in the days leading up to her disappearance and the day she disappeared. Some of the internet searches found include:
- On July 11, search for if you are going to pay for an Amber Alert.
- On Thursday, a search was conducted for a one-way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville.
- On Thursday, search for how to withdraw money from a program without getting caught.
- On Thursday, a search for the movie “Take,” a film by Liam Neeson about a kidnapping.
“I think it’s very unusual … on the day someone is kidnapped … they’re searching the internet Googling the movie ‘Take’ about a kidnapping. That’s strange,” Derzis said Wednesday.
Russell went missing Thursday afternoon after calling 911 just after 9:30 p.m. to report seeing a toddler on Interstate 459 South, Hoover Police said. She also called relatives to report seeing the child and said she was going to help them before the relative lost contact with her, police said.
In a statement Tuesday night, police said they found “no evidence of a toddler walking down the intersection” and that there were no additional 911 calls reporting sightings of the child.
Detectives also said Russell had gone to a Target to buy some snacks before getting on the highway.
When the police came to the intersection after receiving a 911 call, they found her car, cell phone, wig and other things, but did not buy the Target.
Russell returned home on foot on Saturday night.
Police said Tuesday they obtained surveillance video from Russell’s neighborhood that showed her walking down the sidewalk alone before he came home.
Police responded to the home and Russell was taken to a hospital for evaluation, treatment and release.
Police said Tuesday that detectives spoke with Russell “briefly upon her return home” and were “waiting for her to be made available to get a more detailed statement” about what happened when she was missing.
When contacted by NBC News on Wednesday, Russell’s family had no comment on the police press conference. But in an interview broadcast on Tuesday on NBC’s “TODAY” show.Russell’s parents said their daughter had been kidnapped.
They did not share details about what transpired in the hours Russell was missing or when she returned home, citing the ongoing investigation.
“We tried to hug her as best we could, but I had to stand back because she was not in a good state,” said Talitha Robinson-Russell, Russell’s mother, of the moments after her daughter returned home.