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Carlee Russell manages to avoid prison over abduction hoax

Carlee Russell has managed to avoid any jail time after she admitted to faking her own abduction last year.

The 26-year-old Alabama woman pleaded guilty to two misdemeanour charges for false reporting to police in a Bessemer courtroom on Thursday.

Clark Morris, the criminal division chief in the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, argued that Russell should be sentenced to prison for wasting police time, calling it a “complete disrespect”.

However, Judge David Carpenter disagreed, saying that it would be “a waste of resources to put you in jail”.

Instead, he handed her supervised probation for 12 months and ordered her to complete 100 hours of community service. She must also continue to receive mental health counselling as part of her probation and must also repay  $17,974.88 in restitution to the city of Hoover.

During her sentencing hearing, Russell apologised to the Hoover Police Department for her actions and the impact they had on others.

Carlee Russell spoke in court apologising to those she negativley impacted (Fox 6 News)
Carlee Russell spoke in court apologising to those she negativley impacted (Fox 6 News)

“I made a grave mistake while trying to fight through various emotional issues and stress,” she said.

“I’m extremely remorseful for the panic, fear and various range of negative emotions that were experienced across the nation.”

“I want to specifically acknowledge and take accountability for the pain and embarrassment that I inflicted upon my family, my church family, friends, neighbors, community and all of those who were directly involved in search efforts for me,” she added.

Russell disappeared back on 13 July after making a frantic 911 claiming to report a toddler on the side of Interstate 459 in Alabama.

Carlee Russell smiles in her mugshot (Hoover Police Department)
Carlee Russell smiles in her mugshot (Hoover Police Department)

When police arrived at the scene, neither Russell nor a toddler could be found anywhere, sparking an investigation into her feared abduction.

Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies joined her family and friends in the frantic search for the missing woman.

However, 49 hours on from her mysterious disappearance, Russell suddenly returned home in a reported state of shock.

She told her family and detectives that she had been kidnapped by a white man with “orange hair” and that he forced her to undress and pose for photos.

She claimed that she managed to escape and fled into the woods before finding her way home.

Carlee ‘disappeared’ on 13 July 2023 after she called 911 about a toddler on an Alabama interstate (Hoover Police Department)
Carlee ‘disappeared’ on 13 July 2023 after she called 911 about a toddler on an Alabama interstate (Hoover Police Department)

Yet, police began to cast doubts on Russell’s story.

Investigators learned that at the time she was on the phone to police dispatch claiming she had stopped by the side of the interstate to assist the toddler, she had in fact travelled the length of six football fields in her vehicle.

Russell’s search history also raised suspicions, as she had looked up the movie Taken, “how to take money from a register without being caught,” and questions surrounding Amber Alerts in the run-up to her disappearance.

The truth was finally revealed two weeks later on 24 July, when her lawyer gave a statement in which Russell confesed that she had not been kidnapped and that she never saw a baby on the side of the road.

Carlee Russell admitted that she lied about being kidnapped over a week after her alleged abduction (Fox 6 News)
Carlee Russell admitted that she lied about being kidnapped over a week after her alleged abduction (Fox 6 News)

Russell was arrested soon after for false reporting and pleaded guilty in October.

Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis told reporters after Thursday’s sentencing that he was “very disappointed” that she won’t serve any jail time.

“She gave an apology today, and unfortunately, to me, it’s like seven, eight months late. I don’t know why we didn’t hear that back in July,” the police chief said, ABC 33/40 reports.

When asked about the restitution, he added: “The real figure should probably be in the 40s – at least $40,000-$50,000 for all the money that we spent.”