Police said Wednesday they’ve been unable to verify initial statements made by Carlee Russell, the Alabama woman who disappeared last week after after saying she saw a toddler walking on the interstate.

But officials did say that before she went missing, she made internet searches about paying for Amber Alerts, how to take money from a register without getting caught and the movie “Taken.”

Police said Russell told them she was forced into an 18-wheeler truck and taken to a home where a man and woman told her to get undressed, then took photos of her. 

Carlethia “Carlee” Nichole Russell
Carlethia “Carlee” Nichole Russell.Courtesy Hoover Police Department via Facebook

Police in Hoover, a city about 10 miles south of Birmingham, have been investigating the disappearance of the 25-year-old nursing student, who returned home two days after she went missing on Thursday night.

During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Hoover Police Chief Nicholas C. Derzis said what happened during Russell’s 49 hours she was missing, after calling 911 and saying there was a child walking on the interstate, remains under investigation.

Derzis said investigators spoke to Russell on Sunday, who had a small injury on her lip and said her head was hurting. She told police that after seeing the young child walking on the interstate, she was abducted and taken by a male with orange hair and a woman, Derzis said.

“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 said Russell told police she managed to escape her abductors the next day somewhere in West Hoover and made it home by foot.

But Derzis said investigators have been unable to corroborate much of Russell’s claims.

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

Derzis also said that investigators, with the help of U.S. Secret Service, analyzed Russell’s cell phone on the days leading up to her disappearance and the day she vanished. Some of the internet searches found include:

  • On July 11, a search for if you have to pay for an Amber Alert.
  • On Thursday, a search about a one way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville.
  • On Thursday, a search for how to take money from a register without getting caught.
  • On Thursday, a search for the movie “Taken,” a movie starring Liam Neeson about abduction.

“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 disappeared Thursday evening after calling 911 just after 9:30 p.m. to report seeing a toddler on Interstate 459 South, Hoover Police said. She had also called a relative to report seeing the child and said she was going to help them before the relative lost contact with her, police said. 

In a statement Tuesday night, police said they did not locate “any evidence of a toddler walking down the interstate” and there were no additional 911 calls reporting sightings of the child. 

Detectives also said that before getting on the highway, Russell had gone to a Target to purchase some snacks. 

When police arrived to the interstate following her 911 call they found her car, cellphone, a wig and other items, but not the Target purchases. 

Russell returned home on foot Saturday night. 

Police said Tuesday they obtained surveillance video from Russell’s neighborhood that showed her walking down the sidewalk alone prior to arriving home. 

Police responded to the home and Russell was taken to a hospital for an evaluation, treated and released.

Police said Tuesday detectives spoke to Russell “very briefly upon her return home” and were “waiting for her to be made available to obtain a more detailed statement” about what happened when she was missing. 

When contacted by NBC News on Wednesday, Russell’s family had no comment on the police press conference. But in an interview that aired Tuesday on NBC’s “TODAY” show, Russell’s parents said their daughter had been abducted. 

They did not share details of what unfolded in the hours Russell was missing nor how she returned home, citing the ongoing investigation. 

“We tried to hug her as best we could, but I had to stand back because she was not in a good state,” Talitha Robinson-Russell, Russell’s mother, said on the moments after her daughter returned home.

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