Carlee Russell searched Amber Alerts, movie 'Taken' prior to disappearance, police say

Police in Alabama have released new details in their investigation into the disappearance of 25-year-old Carlethia "Carlee" Nichole Russell.

The Hoover Police Department held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to address questions about the case and give an update on their findings.

Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said detectives are still investigating where Carlee Russell was and what happened to her between the time she went missing and her return home on Saturday. But he also said investigators have been "unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statement."

Authorities say they don't believe there is any threat to the public.

Officers say before she disappeared, Russell took a robe and toilet paper from her job. 

In the days before her disappearance, she searched for information on her cellphone about Amber Alerts, a movie about a woman’s abduction and a one-way bus ticket from Birmingham, Alabama, to Nashville, Tennessee. Her phone also showed she traveled about 600 yards while telling a 911 operator she was following a 3- or 4-year-old child in a diaper on the side of the highway, Derzis said.

Police said later Tuesday that detectives had not reached any conclusions about the disappearance. Investigators spoke to Carlee Russell briefly and were waiting for her to be made available for a more detailed statement. But they said they did not uncover any evidence of a toddler walking on the interstate.

The update comes less than a day after police told FOX affiliate WBRC that they learned Russell went to a Target before her disappearance and purchased a snack food that wasn't found in her car when officers got to the scene on the side of Interstate 459.

Authorities also say they have not found any evidence of a toddler walking down the interstate - which was the reason Russell called 911 and her family before vanishing.

The Alabama woman's disappearance and return home has caught the attention of people across the country with many speculating about what happened in the 48 hours Russell was missing.


Russell's parents spoke to the TODAY show Tuesday morning, saying that they believe she was "absolutely" abducted.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Carlee's mother Talitha Robinson-Russell said her daughter and the family are cooperating with the investigation.

"Please understand our mental state and the anguish we have just experienced and that Carlee is still dealing with and understand that no matter how many demands or false narratives that are produced we will not be bullied into doing anything that will compromise our daughter’s mental well being or the investigation," she wrote.


Carlee Russell's disappearance

The search began for Russell on Thursday night. That night, she called 911 and then spoke to a family member, saying that she saw a young child walking on the side of Interstate 459 South near Mile Market 11 in Hoover, Alabama.  

Carlee's mother said her daughter was on the phone with a family member when she pulled over to check on the child.  

"My daughter-in-law could hear her ask if the child was OK, and the child didn't respond - at least she didn't hear her respond," Robinson-Russell said. "Then she heard our daughter Carlee scream."

While the family lost contact with Carlee Russell, the line remained open.

When officers arrived at the location, they found Russell's red Mercedes still running by the interstate, but they were unable to find her or a child in the area.

"Her car door was open," Robinson-Russell said. "They have found her wig and her hat, and her cell phone."

Investigators say no children had been reported missing in the area.

Police say a witness reported seeing a man standing beside Russell’s vehicle just before officers arrived at the scene.

"A single witness has reported possibly seeing a gray vehicle with a light-complexioned male standing outside Carlee's vehicle," Hoover Police Lt. Daniel Lowe said at a press conference.

Carlee Russell found safe

Police say at around 10:45 p.m. Saturday, two days after her disappearance on Interstate 459, Russell showed up at the front door of the home in Hoover she shared with her parents.

"She walked up, banged on the door, and that was her," Hoover Police Chief Nicholas Derzis told WBRC.

The station reports that surveillance video from the neighborhood shows her walking by herself down a sidewalk before arriving at her home. 

Speaking to TODAY, Robinson-Russell described the moment they got to see their daughter for the first time since she disappeared.

"We tried to hug her as best we could, but I had to stand back because she was not in a good state. We had to stand back and let medical professionals help her," Talitha Robinson-Russell said before becoming too emotional to speak. 

When first responders arrived at the scene, the missing woman was reportedly conscious and spoke with them.

Russell was taken to a local hospital for evaluation and has since been released back to her family.

The Hoover Police Department says detectives have spoken to Russell and are waiting for the chance to have another interview.

Image 1 of 4

Carlee Russell  (Hoover Police Department)

Who is Carlee Russell?

Investigators believe Russell got off work around 8:20 p.m. from a business at The Summit in Birmingham, picked up food and then drove towards Hoover, where she lives with her parents.

Police now believe she stopped at a Target on Highway 280 between the time she picked up food and when she pulled over on the side of the interstate. 

The day she disappeared, Russell went to Harpersville, where officials say she briefly interacted with members of the city's police department.

 "We were honored to spend time with this smart, courteous and honoring young woman yesterday. She was handling some business in the Town of Harpersville yesterday and we were so impressed by her respect, poise, good attitude and her drive to become a nursing student and help others," the Harpersville Police Department wrote on Facebook. "When this news broke, so did our hearts. This world needs many, many more young women and young men like her."

That Facebook post has since been deleted. reports that Russell is a student at Jefferson State Community College and is studying to be a registered nurse.

Durnig the time she was missing, Jefferson State wrote on Facebook that it was "praying for her safe return" and that they were "extremely concerned" for her safety.

After news of her disappearance spread, a private donor came forward to offer a $25,000 reward, in addition to the $5,000 being offered by Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama. That reward eventually increased to $55.,000

This story is being reported out of Atlanta. The Associated Press contributed to this report