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Crime News Missing Persons

Carlee Russell Charged After Admitting Her Abduction Claim Was a Hoax

The Alabama woman is charged with false reporting to law enforcement authorities and falsely reporting an incident — both misdemeanors. Each charge carries a punishment of up to a year in jail, if convicted.

By Elisabeth Ford
Tips On How To Report A Missing Person

Carlee Russell, the Alabama woman who claimed she was kidnapped on the side of the highway but later admitted it was all a lie, has been charged with two misdemeanors in the hoax.

The 25-year-old nursing student appeared to go missing on July 13 after calling 911 to report a toddler along the side of I-459 in Hoover. After a 49-hour disappearance, Russell returned home on foot, and initially told police she was abducted by a man who forced her into an 18-wheeler truck and took her to a house where she was told to undress.

RELATED: Carlee Russell Confesses "There Was No Kidnapping" and No Toddler Along Interstate, Attorney Says

Was Carlee Russell arrested?

An arrest warrant was issued early Friday for Russell, who, accompanied by her attorney, surrendered herself to authorities at the Hoover City Jail, according to Hoover Police Chief Nicholas C. Derzis.

What was Carlee Russell charged with? 

Hoover police detailed the criminal charges at a press conference Friday, announcing she's been charged with false reporting to law enforcement authorities and falsely reporting an incident — both Class A misdemeanors — and was released on a total bond of $2,000.

A mugshot of Carlee Russell

Will Carlee Russell go to jail?

Each of the charges against Russell carries a punishment of up to a year in jail and a potential fine of $6,000, if she is convicted.

Derzis said that Russell told investigators that she was a victim in a kidnapping “that we know now never existed."

“Her decisions that night created panic and alarm for the citizens of our city and even across the nation as concern grew that a kidnapper was on the loose using a small child as bait," Derzis said.

RELATED: Carlee Russell, Who Vanished After Reporting Child on Roadside, Conducted Online Searches on Amber Alerts and Abduction Film, Cops Say

He continued: “Many private citizens volunteered their time and energy into looking for a potential kidnapping victim that we know now was never in any danger. The story opened wounds for families whose loved ones really were victims of kidnappings, some of which even helped organize searches.”

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall told reporters at Friday’s news conference that he does not see Russell’s fabricated abduction as a “victimless crime.”

“There are significant hours spent, resources expended as a result of this investigation,” he said, adding that “we intend to fully prosecute this case.”

Photo of Carlethia Carlee Nichole Russell.

Marshall also said his office will monitor the rest of the investigation to determine if Russell should be brought up on any additional charges. “We will evaluate those if the facts are presented,” he said.

RELATED: Alabama Woman is Missing After Calling 911 to Report a Child Alone Along the Interstate

The charges come just days after Russell admitted that her abduction story and the story of the child on the roadside was a hoax.

“My client apologizes for her actions to this community, the volunteers who were searching for her, to the Hoover Police Department and other agencies as well, as to her friends and family,” Russell’s attorney, Emory Anthony, said in a statement that was read by Derzis at a Monday press conference.

Investigators became suspicious of Russell's claims after cellphone analysis revealed that prior to her 911 call, she made internet searches on Amber alerts, one-way bus tickets and the abduction-focused movie Taken.

When asked on Friday how Russell is handling the charges, Anthony told NBC News: “She’s doing like anybody else charged with something. She realized that, although it’s two misdemeanors, it’s still a serious offense. She understands that.”

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