© 2023 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Carlee Russell appeared at home after vanishing while reporting lost child

Carlee Russell is studying to become a registered nurse.
Hoover Police Department
Carlee Russell is studying to become a registered nurse.

Updated July 16, 2023 at 3:57 PM ET

On Thursday night, 25-year-old Carlee Russell from Hoover, Ala., vanished after telling a 911 dispatcher that she found a toddler stranded on the side of an interstate, police said.

Her disappearance and the mysterious circumstances around it horrified her family, stumped the police and captured national attention. Then, around 10:45 p.m. on Saturday, Russell's family heard a knock coming from the front door, Nicholas Derzis, Hoover's police chief, told NPR.

To their surprise, it was Russell — alone.

Russell was evaluated at a hospital and had returned home as of Sunday afternoon. Police said they have received an initial statement from Russell since her return but they have not disclosed information about Russell's condition, how she returned home or what happened in the roughly 48 hours when she went missing.

"We celebrate with the Russell family on her safe return," Lt. Daniel Lowe of the Hoover Police Department said in a press release.

Russell's mother did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment.

Police say they did not receive any calls of a missing toddler

On Thursday, around 9:35 p.m., Russell was on her way home from picking up dinner when she called 911 claiming a boy toddler in a diaper was lost on the side of I-459, Hoover police said.

Afterward, Russell phoned her brother's girlfriend to share what she saw. During the call, it sounded like Russell approached the child and moments later, screamed, her mother Talitha Russell told AL.com. Then, the family member lost contact with Russell.

When police arrived, officers discovered Russell's car. Some of her belongings, including her wig and cellphone, were on the roadway. But neither Russell nor the child were anywhere to be found. The department has received no other calls of a missing small child as of Sunday.

One witness reported seeing a gray car and "a light complected" man standing outside Russell's vehicle during the time of the incident, Hoover police said. Police Chief Derzis told NPR that they have since disregarded that tip because traffic camera footage did not back up claims about the gray vehicle.

Russell attends Jefferson State Community College, where she is studying to become a nurse. She also worked part time at a spa, according to AL.com.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content