Following Carlee Russell Saga, Alabama Working to Draft Law Making Lying to Police a Felony

by Xara Aziz
Hoover Police

Alabama lawmakers are working to draft new legislation making falsifying information to law enforcement a felony after the Carlee Russell melee that unfolded in July.

As it stands, Tennessee and Florida have made lying to police a felony. Alabama now seeks to have the same apply in the state.

On Friday, Russell confessed to the hoax she created after lying about being kidnapped, launching a 49-hour search and days-long investigation into her “disappearance.” She has turned herself in to authorities.

Russell, 26, has been charged with two misdemeanors: falsely reporting to law enforcement officers and falsely reporting an incident, Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis announced at a news conference.

She has since been bailed out of jail but faces up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $6,000, Derzis added.

“I know many are shocked and appalled that Miss Russell is only being charged with two misdemeanors, despite all the panic and disruption her actions caused,” Derzis said at the news conference. “Let me assure you I too share the same frustration. But existing laws only allow the charges that were filed to be filed.”

The office of Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall oversaw the investigation into the hoax and said her staging the disappearance cost his office a great deal of time.

“We don’t see this as a victimless crime,” Marshall said Friday. “There were significant hours spent, resources expended as a result of this investigation,” adding that “many men and women who are civilians” took time out of their busy schedules trying to find her.  

No charges have been filed against Russell’s family, Derzis added.

Last Tuesday, police confirmed that Russell provided a statement admitting that it was all a lie.

“My client apologizes for her actions to this community, to the volunteers who were searching for her, to the Hoover Police Department and other agencies as well,” according to a statement from her lawyer and police.

“We’re still trying to determine where she was during those 49 hours, but I am glad that we received this,” Derzis said. “At least puts some of the social media super sleuths hopefully at rest for a little bit as far as … what everybody thinks took place.”

He further added that Russell acted alone and did not have an accomplice.

Up until the time of her confessioninvestigators were trying to piece clues together in the case, but were befuddled about what really transpired on the day she claimed she was abducted.

Last Wednesday, police say they could not verify initial statements she made to police, but they did find that she conducted internet searches about how to pay for Amber Alerts, how to take money from a register without getting caught and the movie Taken.

Detectives also said that Russell told them she was forced into an 18-wheeler and taken to a home where a man and woman asked her to undress and took photos of her in the nude.

Derzis said that Russell had an injury on her lip and reported that she had a headache after she was found Sunday. She further indicated that she saw a child walking along the highway and was abducted by a man with orange hair and a woman.

“She claimed he then forced her into a car and the next thing she remembers is being in the trailer of an 18-wheeler,” Derzis said. “She stated the male was with a female. However, she never saw the female, only hearing her voice.”

Derzis added that Russell told investigators that she was able to escape the following day and made it home by foot, but officials have not been able to substantiate most of her claims.

“What we can say is we’ve been unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statements made to investigators,” Derzis said. “And we have no reason to believe that there is a threat to the public safety related to this particular case.”

He continued: “I do think it’s highly unusual … on the day someone gets kidnapped … that they’re searching the internet, Googling the movie ‘Taken,’ about an abduction. I find that very strange,” Derzis said Wednesday.


Russell went missing July 13 after informing police that she saw a child walking alone on the highway and decided to help has been found safe Saturday evening, authorities have confirmed.

Russell was found after she appeared at her family’s house. According to Derzis, her family was stunned to see her and it is unclear how she arrived there. She has since been taken to the hospital for a medical evaluation.

Her reappearance marked the end of a search that made national headlines after she called a dispatcher shortly before 10 PM to report that she had pulled over on I-459 South to check on the toddler, police say. When officers arrived at the scene, she was gone but her vehicle was still there, the police said in a statement.

Shortly after Russell went missing, her mother, Talitha Russell, told the New York Times that her daughter was a “kindhearted” soul and was “the life of the party.” She was working part-time at the Woodhouse Spa in Birmingham while enrolled in nursing courses at Jefferson State Community College.

Two days later, Russell’s mother said that several tipsters provided what they knew about her daughter’s whereabouts.

Russell, who recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Auburn University at Montgomery had just finished her shift at the spa and was headed to a Mediterranean restaurant to grab chicken wraps for her mother when she said she saw a toddler on the side of the interstate, her mother said. She says she advised Russell stay with the child until police arrived. Russell then called her brother’s girlfriend and told her about the situation when the girlfriend said she heard her scream, then heard the phone drop.

The girlfriend – whose name has been withheld – said that she immediately called her family, leading them to track Russell’s whereabouts using a phone feature. When they got to the scene, they found her hat and wig on the ground. Her car door was open and the engine was running. But she was gone.

Her disappearance sparked statewide concern as officers combed through the area to find her.

Authorities say they are puzzled about the case because no one else had seen or called the police to report a child walking alone on the highway.

“That is a little unusual,” Derzis told The New York Times, adding, “The thing that we do know is that her car was on the interstate, and she was not when we got there, and that’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

Russell’s mother says while her daughter went missing, she would pray for the day to see her daughter, who has a Bible scripture tattooed on her arm that says “God is within her.  She will not fail.

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