An Alabama woman, whose brief disappearance this month garnered national attention and prompted statewide search efforts, said through a lawyer on Monday that she faked the entire ordeal, including her abduction and her claim that she saw a child by the side of a road.
The woman, Carlee Russell, 25, said through her attorney, Emory Anthony, that she was not abducted July 13 in Hoover, Alabama, and that she did not see a child by the side of a highway that night — a detail she shared with a 911 dispatcher before being reported missing.
« We ask for your prayers for Carlee as she faces her issues and attempts to move forward with the understanding that she made a mistake in this matter, » Mr. Anthony said in a letter that was read by the Hoover Police Department chief at a news conference on Monday. « Carlee asks for your forgiveness again. »
Mr Anthony said in the letter that Ms Russell had received no help with her hoax and had not stayed in a hotel with anyone since she disappeared.
Mr Anthony said by phone he would meet with officials Tuesday morning to discuss possible charges Ms Russell could face for fabricating her kidnapping, but declined to answer questions or explain his client’s motives for lying.
Police Chief Nicholas Derzis told the press conference that police were in discussions with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office about possible charges in the case. The district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.
When reached by phone, Talitha Russell, Carlee Russell’s mother, said « now is not a good time » and hung up. She did not immediately respond to questions via SMS.
Ms Russell’s admission capped off a puzzling case that had been shrouded in mystery from the moment she recounted a story of a child walking by the side of a busy road at night – an image that sparked skepticism from detectives, who wondered how no one else on the road had seen such a strange sight.
When Ms Russell called 911, she told the dispatcher she would stop to help the boy. She then called a family member to relay the same details and that person overheard Ms. Russell yelling on her phone. That was the last anyone heard of Ms Russell until about two days later, when she showed up at her family’s doorstep on foot, astounding relatives and officials.
Upon her return, Ms Russell told detectives she was forced into a car and then into a lorry before fleeing, only to be kidnapped again and put into a car, police said. Ms Russell said she was then held in a house and loaded into another car before escaping and racing home through the woods.
But on Wednesday, Chief Derzis told a news conference that police had found no evidence to support Ms Russell’s claim that she had been kidnapped and shared details that seemed to hint at what had actually happened.
The department’s investigation found that Ms Russell had searched online for information about Amber Alerts and the film « Taken, » which is about a kidnapping, before calling 911 to report the sighting of the child.
Chief Derzis said on Monday that detectives still wanted to meet with Ms Russell to piece together a timeline and fully understand the reasons for the hoax.
In a telephone interview, the chief said police did not yet know exactly how much money was spent in the search, but that he expected it to run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
He declined to say what possible charges Ms Russell could face. In Alabama, it is a crime to knowingly make a false report to law enforcement.