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Carlee Russell Abduction Case: What Happened to the Alabama Woman Who Went Missing for 2 Days?

Carlethia "Carlee" Nichole Russell told police she was kidnapped, but that’s not what they think happened. 

The disappearance of Carlethia "Carlee" Nichole Russell gripped the nation for 50 hours. Investigators believed that the 25-year-old nursing student called 911 after pulling over to the side of the highway to help a wandering toddler. Then, she disappeared. However, since she reappeared at her home, investigators have put together a timeline of what really happened – and it appears that the "missing" woman set her "disappearance" up. 

Police Have a Timeline of What Happened


"We pretty much know exactly what took place from the time she left work until the 911 call," Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said at a news conference Wednesday, offering a timeline starting on July 15, the day she supposedly went missing. 

Russell Conducted "Very Strange" Online Searches


Russell conducted some "very strange" online searches that Russell made in the days leading up to her disappearance.

July 11, 7:30 a.m. — "Do you have to pay for an Amber alert"

July 13, 1:03 a.m. — "How to take money from a register without being caught"

July 13, 2:13 a.m. — "Birmingham bus station"

July 13, 2:35 a.m. — "One way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville" with a departure date 

Russell Left Her Work and Bought Snacks at Target


On Thursday, July 13, at 8:20 p.m. Russell left her workplace in Birmingham. She ordered food from The Colonnade shopping mall and picked it up, according to police. Then, she stopped at a Target, buying granola bars and Cheez-Its. She waited in the parking lot until 9:21 p.m.

She Called 911


On Thursday, July 13, at 9:34 p.m. Russell called 911 to report a toddler on the highway, saying she had stopped to check on the boy. While on the phone with a dispatcher she drove 600 yards in her car, per Derzis. 

She Called Her Sister-in-Law and Disappeared


After her 911 call, which lasted less than two minutes, Russell called a family member, her sister-in-law. "She went missing during that conversation sometime after 9:36 PM," police wrote on Facebook. She "lost contact with" her during the call, "but the line remained open," according to Hoover police Lt. Daniel Lowe.

Police Arrived and Found Her Car and Belongings


Russell's mother called the police. Hoover officers arrived on the scene within five minutes of being dispatched, finding Russell's car, cellphone, wig, and purse with her Apple Watch in the bag. None of the snacks she had purchased at Target were in the car or at the scene.

She Returned Home 50 Hours Later, Claiming She Was Taken

Hoover Police Department

50 hours later, Russell showed up at her doorstep. She told police that a man came out of the woods and mumbled that he was checking on the child. Russell told officers the man then forced her over a fence and into a car. The next thing she remembers is being in the trailer of a truck with the man, she told police, claiming that he had orange hair, and had a female accomplice. She said she heard a baby crying. 

She Detailed What Happened During the 50 Hours

Hoover Police Department

According to Russell's account she escaped, but was recaptured and put into a car and blindfolded. She claims she was taken to a house and undressed. The following day a woman fed her cheese crackers and played with her hair. She said she was placed in a vehicle and was able to escape, running through the woods to her house. She returned Saturday, July 15 at 10:45 p.m.

The Investigation "Is Not Over"

Hoover (AL) Police Department/Facebook

"This investigation is not over," Derzis said. "We're still working this case and we're working this case until we uncover every piece of evidence that helps us account for the 49 hours that Carlee Russell was missing."


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