A 25-year-old woman in Alabama who was reported missing Thursday night after telling a 911 dispatcher she saw a child walking along the side of a highway and would pull over to help was found late Saturday, according to the police.
The woman, Carlee Russell, showed up at her family’s door on Saturday night, knocked and was greeted by her stunned relatives, said Nicholas Derzis, the police chief of Hoover, a Birmingham suburb.
He said he wasn’t sure how Mrs Russell got there but no one was with her when she got there. She was taken to the hospital for an evaluation.
Hoover 911 received a call at 10.45pm Saturday saying Ms. Russell had gone home, police said in a statement. « More information will be provided as it becomes available, » police said.
His return ended an extensive statewide search that had captured national attention and caused widespread speculation about what might have happened before his disappearance.
The circumstances of his sudden disappearance remained unclear on Sunday morning.
The case began Thursday night when Mrs. Russell told the dispatcher about the child at around 9:35 p.m., called a family member to relay the same details, and then pulled over at I-459 South near mileage 11 to check the child, the Hoover Police Department said.
The family member « lost contact » with Ms Russell, but the line remained open, police said.
When officers arrived at the scene in Hoover, they found Ms. Russell’s vehicle and some of her belongings nearby, « but could not find her or a child in the area, » police said in a statement.
The Hoover Police Department said it has not received any calls from anyone who has lost a child.
Talitha Russell, the mother of Carlee Russell, said in an interview on Saturday night – hours before the young Mrs Russell was found – that her daughter, who is known as a « kind-hearted » soul and is always « the soul of the party, She was having a busy and meaningful summer, working a part-time job at Woodhouse Spa in Birmingham and taking nursing classes at Jefferson State Community College.
Talitha Russell didn’t immediately respond to a text and called asking for a follow-up interview after her daughter was found.
On Saturday, she said she was inundated with tips about her daughter’s possible whereabouts, which she was sharing with police. Each new buzz on her phone ushered in a jolt of anxiety, Talitha Russell said.
« We want everyone to go the extra mile to be relentless in their pursuit of her, leaving no stone unturned and just spreading the word, » he said. « Not just in Alabama or Birmingham, but in every state. »
On Thursday evening, Ms. Russell — who majored in psychology at Auburn University in Montgomery — finished her shift at the spa around 8:20 p.m. and went to a Mediterranean restaurant to get a chicken wrap for her mother. and she was driving home to the Hoover when she spotted what appeared to be a small child on the side of a highway, Talitha Russell said.
Ms Russell first called the receptionist who, according to Talitha Russell, told her to stay with the baby until the police arrived. Ms Russell then called her brother’s girlfriend, whose name was not shared. The girl stayed on the phone and she listened in as Mrs Russell got out of the car and called the baby, Talitha Russell said.
There was no answer, but then the girl heard a scream on the phone that sounded like it was from Mrs. Russell.
It sounded like the phone was dropped, and then all you could hear was the background noise of passing vehicles on the highway, Talitha Russell said.
The girl immediately told the family what had happened, prompting Talitha Russell and her husband to use a phone feature that showed them Ms Russell’s location.
They rushed to the scene on the highway and saw their daughter’s car, the driver’s side door open and the engine still running. His hat and her wig were on the ground next to the car, and her phone was in a different spot nearby, Talitha Russell said.
Police officers were already at the scene. That night they used drones to search the surrounding area for Ms Russell as her family traveled through other suburbs, looking for her daughter.
The mysterious disappearance has sparked widespread concern in the state in recent days, with police officers sifting through dozens of hints and potential leads.
Among the more baffling details of the case is how no other drivers on the heavily traversed highway could spot a child walking by the side of the road that night, an image that was sure to prompt more calls to 911. as well as Mrs. Russell’s.
« This is a bit unusual, » Chief Derzis said in an interview on Saturday night, before Ms. Russell was found. She added, « The thing we do know is that her car was on the highway, and she wasn’t when we got there, and that’s what we’re trying to figure out. »
There are some wooded areas near where Ms Russell stopped her car, but hunting dogs combed those parts and no substantive evidence has emerged, Chief Derzis said.
The Hoover Police Department obtained traffic footage that appeared to show Ms. Russell turning on her emergency taillights on the highway, calling 911 to report the child, and stopping her Mercedes- Red Benz, Chief Derzis said, noting that the video was very grainy and investigators were working to clarify that.
“From the moment it stops to the moment the first officer hits the blue lights and arrives on the scene – we don’t see another vehicle pulling up or anything like that,” Chief Derzis said.
An early suggestion of a gray vehicle with a man standing outside Ms Russell’s vehicle was discounted after review of the footage, the boss added.
THE The Harpersville Police Department said on Facebook Friday that Mrs. Russell had been in town, about 30 miles east of Hoover, on Thursday « handling some business ». Talitha Russell said her daughter had been in Harpersville to talk to a judge about a minor fine that was eventually overturned.
The department said Ms. Russell was an « intelligent, courteous, and honorable young woman » who impressed others that day with her « respect, poise, good attitude, and her drive to become a nursing student and help others others ».
Talitha Russell said she spent her last days praying that Mrs Russell would be found. She longed to see her daughter’s jubilant smile, her big eyes, and the Bible scripture tattooed on her left shoulder.
“God is within her,” it reads. « It won’t fail. »