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Carlee Russell charged with making false statements to Alabama police in ‘hoax’ disappearance

Carlee Russell, the Alabama woman who told police she was kidnapped after she went missing for two days, was arrested on Friday and charged with two misdemeanors for making false statements to police, Hoover Police Department Chief Nicholas Derzis announced during a press conference on Friday.

“The story open wounds for families whose loved ones really were victims of kidnappings,” Derzis said.

He added that he shares in the “frustration” that Russell was only charged with misdemeanors and said that he is calling on an “enhancement” to be added to the law.

“Existing laws only allowed the charges that were filed to be filed,” he said.

Russell was charged with two class A misdemeanors that are each punishable with up to one year in prison — false reporting to law enforcement authorities and falsely reporting an incident, Derzis said.

Lane Tolbert, chief assistant district attorney at the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Bessemer Division office, told ABC News on Thursday that prosecutors advised police on “what we think the charges should be,” but said that charges would be filed by the Circuit Clerk of Jefferson County, Bessemer Division’s office.

According to Tolbert, each of the charges that Russell is facing are class A misdemeanors in Alabama and punishable by up to one year in prison.

Asked about the charges on Friday by ABC News, a spokesperson for the circuit clerk’s office declined to comment.

The announcement comes after prosecutors confirmed to ABC News on Thursday that they discussed potential charges against Russell with the Hoover Police Department after the 25-year-old admitted through a statement from her attorney on Monday that she made up the whole thing.

Derzis told reporters during a press conference on Monday that Russell’s disappearance was a “hoax” and read a statement provided to police by Russell’s attorney, Emory Anthony, acknowledging that “there was no kidnapping.”

“My client has given me permission to make the following statement on her behalf. There was no kidnapping on Thursday, July 13th 2023. My client did not see a baby on the side of the road. My client did not leave the Hoover area when she was identified as a missing person. My client did not have any help in this incident. This was a single act done by herself,” the statement as read by Derzis said.

“We ask for your prayers for Carlee as she addresses her issues and attempts to move forward. Understanding that she made a mistake in this matter, Carly again, asks for your forgiveness and prayers,” the statement continued.

Before her disappearance Russell called 911 on July 12 at around 9:30 p.m. ET to report a toddler on Interstate 459 in Alabama, but the Hoover Police Department said in a press release last week that investigators have not found any evidence of a child walking on the side of the road. According to Derzis, Russell also told police after she returned home on July 15 that she was taken by a male and a female when she stopped to check on the toddler that she reported on the highway.

Hoover police met with Anthony earlier this week to discuss the case.

ABC News reached out to Anthony and Russell’s family for comment on the charges.

Derzis said during a press conference on July 19 that Russell searched for Amber Alerts and the movie “Taken” on her phone before her disappearance.

Russell also made searches related to bus tickets in the hours before she went missing, Derzis said.

“Taken,” the 2008 movie starring Liam Neeson, centers around a young woman who is abducted and the quest to save her from her kidnappers.

“There were other searches on Carlee’s phone that appeared to shed some light on her mindset,” Derzis said, adding he would not share them out of privacy.

Asked about the charges on Friday by ABC News, a spokesperson for the circuit clerk’s office declined to comment.

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