Alabama woman who faked her own abduction gets probation, fined, but no jail time

Published 3:36 pm Thursday, March 21, 2024

The Alabama woman who sparked a massive search for her last year admitted Thursday in court that she faked her own abduction with an elaborate story given to 911 dispatchers alleging she found a young child wandering alone on an interstate.

Carlee Russell, 26, of Birmingham, appeared in court Thursday where she pleaded guilty to filing false police reports.

She was sentenced to 12 months of probation, has to serve 100 hours of community service and pay nearly $18,000 in restitution to the City of Hoover whose police force led the search for her.

“It is a waste of resources to put you in jail,” Jefferson County Circuit Judge David Carpenter said. “It is a waste of resources to have a trial. Although we are upset about what you’ve done, we’re not going to treat you differently than we would any other person charged with misdemeanors.”

Russell told the court she was made a “grave mistake” in the hoax while she was working through emotional issues and stress.

In July 2023 Russell stopped on Interstate 459 in Hoover, called 911 and said she had seen a toddler walking alone on the side of the highway.

When police arrived, they found Russell’s car, but not her or any evidence of a child.

Two days later Russell appeared at her parents’ house and told police an elaborate story about being kidnapped and held in an 18-wheeler against her will before she eventually escaped.

As police began investigating the matter, they revealed that they found no evidence to back up her stories and eventually charged her with falsifying her reports to police.