The Alabama woman who claimed she was kidnapped after seeing a toddler on a highway has been fired from her job at a spa.
Carlee Russell, a 25-year-old nursing student, worked at The Woodhouse in Birmingham.
On July 13, she was caught on surveillance camera stealing a dark bath robe and toilet paper before leaving work for the day.
She then called 911 to report a child alone on the freeway, and then disappeared for 49 hours.
She has told police she was kidnapped by a man and a woman, held in an 18-wheeler truck, and then wrestled free.
But cops in Hoover, Alabama, have said they are unable to corroborate her story, and it has since emerged she searched online the Liam Neeson kidnap film ‘Taken’, looked for one-way bus tickets to Nashville, and researched whether an Amber Alert would be issued for someone her age. On Friday, her boss said she had been fired.
Carlee Russell, 25, claimed she was abducted on July 13, and then escaped and returned home 49 hours later. But questions are mounting about her story, and on Friday she was fired from her job
Russell worked at The Woodhouse, in Birmingham. She was fired on Friday
Stuart Rome told The New York Post Russell’s colleagues were initially distraught, but are now angry.
‘It was really devastating for them thinking a co-worker was abducted,’ he said.
‘The following day, Saturday, it was the busiest day of the week, and they had to plug along and work and in the off times pass out flyers and other things.’
Rome said that her colleagues felt cheated, and business at the spa has suffered.
Stuart Rome, owner of The Woodhouse, said the staff felt duped by Russell, and the business was being attacked due to her story.
‘As the information came out that there were some questionable things, we’ve been a little pissed off, mainly because so many people took so much time out to search,’ he said, adding that the spa has been bombarded with social media messages attacking them for her actions.
‘Basically, we’ve spent the last day battling to get things deleted,’ he said.
‘Comments. I’ve had to shut down my comment section on Instagram and Facebook page which hurts us because we do a lot of marketing there.
‘We’re just trying to keep the doors open.’
Rome said that, if her story is confirmed as a hoax, it is deeply damaging because people will not believe the next person who is abducted.
‘I think it erodes faith for the next time, it erodes faith when people see somebody who’s been abducted and they’ve been put through this,’ he said.
‘They’re just not going to respond like they did, which is the worst part.’
Russell has now stopped cooperating with police, but initially told them she was taken by a white man with ‘orange hair’ who appeared from the trees on the side of I-459 after she saw a ‘baby boy in a diaper’ walking along the road on Thursday at around 9.30pm.
On Wednesday, Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said they had been unable to confirm Russell’s story.
It also emerged Russell researched the Liam Neeson movie ‘Taken’ and whether she was too old for an Amber Alert, plus searched for a one-way bus ticket to Nashville.
Carlee reappeared on Saturday night at her parents’ home. It remains a mystery what happened to her
Police said they have traced her every move and corroborate her story up until the 911 call where Russell reported seeing a toddler along the interstate.
Police have not found evidence to support that sighting.
‘We pretty much know exactly what took place from the time she left work until she got on the 911 call,’ said Derzis, the Hoover chief of police.
‘We can see getting out of the car on the interstate from that footage. After that, I think she only knows. We don’t.’
He added: ‘We’ve asked to interview Carlee a second time but have not been granted that request.
‘As you can see there are many questions left to be answered but only Carlee can provide those answers.
‘What we can say is we have been unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statement made to investigators and we have no reason to believe there is a threat to public safety related to this particular case.’
Detectives stopped short of accusing her of maliciously lying, but instead questioned her mental state, and said they were now struggling to believe her story.
Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said Carlee’s story could not be proven
Carlee Russell’s mysterious disappearance and reappearance in Alabama last week
She said a man came out of the trees and mumbled that he was checking on the baby, then picked her up and took her over a fence and into a car.
She said the next thing she remembered was being in the trailer of an 18-wheeler, and that there was a female whose voice she heard but who she didn’t see.
‘She told detectives she could hear a baby crying, and that the male had orange hair,’ Derzis said.
Russell’s story included escaping from the pair then being recaptured.
‘She says they blindfolded her but didn’t tie her up because they didn’t want to leave compression marks,’ Derzis said.
She also told the police the pair made her strip and photographed her body, but said they did not physically or sexually abuse her.
Carlethia ‘Carlee’ Nichole Russell, 25, is seen moving into the shoulder lane in her red Mercedes with the flashers on. Police say she drove 600 yards before pulling over – the distance of six football fields – and claimed the whole time to be looking at a toddler.
Before vanishing, Russell stole from the spa, then bought Cheez-Its and granola bars from Target.
Detectives believe she took the food with her when she disappeared.
Her phone, wig and Apple Watch were found in her car, along with take-out food she had ordered from a restaurant near her work.
She had also driven 600 yards – the length of six football fields – while on the phone to 911 claiming to be looking at a baby boy on the side of the road.
At the press conference, detectives played her calm 911 call reporting the child on the road.
In the days leading up to her disappearance, she researched terms like: ‘Do you have to pay for an Amber Alert?’
On the day of her disappearance, her Google searches included: ‘How to take money from a register without being caught?’
She also searched: ‘Birmingham bus station’ and ‘one-way ticket from Birmingham to Nashville.’
She also researched terms relating to kidnapping and disappearances, including on the day she disappeared.
Her parents Talitha and Carlos Russell launched a frantic search for their daughter last week. They say she is now too fragile to be interviewed by police
Russell, 25, was studying nursing at the time of her disappearance, which sparked nationwide headlines.
Russell’s parents say she ‘banged on the door’ on Saturday at 10.45pm and was in a ‘bad state’
Russell claims she managed to escape from them while they were moving her in a vehicle, and that she ran home.
She also drove 600 yards – the length of six football fields – while on the phone with 911 claiming to be looking at the child.
After calling 911, Russell called her brother’s girlfriend and claimed to be looking at the child.
The brother’s girlfriend then heard her scream, then the line went dead.
Russell’s parents, who had asked the media and police for help in finding her, are yet to address the new evidence released on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, they insisted an ‘abductor’ was behind her disappearance.
‘Carlee has given detectives her statement so that they can continue to pursue her abductor,’ said Talitha Russell, Carlee’s mother, in an interview with the Today Show.
Pressed on whether they believe an abductor is at large in the case, Talitha responded ‘absolutely, absolutely,’ as Carlee’s father Carlos nodded in agreement.
‘Carlee has given detectives her statement so that they can continue to pursue her abductor,’ said her mother Talitha Russell (left) in an interview on Tuesday
Carlee Russell, seen with her boyfriend, reappeared at her parents’ home in Hoover on Saturday night, 48 hours after she disappeared from the side of an interstate.
The parents said they were subjected to cruel taunting and fake messages claiming to have information about their daughter while she was missing.
‘There were actually just so many calls and texts from people who maliciously lied to us,’ Talitha Russell said.
‘I just didn’t know people could be so evil.’
The mother grew emotional as she described the moment she was reunited with her daughter, saying the reunion was filled with ‘so much joy’.
‘We tried to hug as best we could, but I had to stand back because she was not in a good state.
‘So we had to stand back and let medical professionals work with her,’ she said.
On Thursday it emerged that Russell tweeted about wanting to start a family, shortly before she disappeared.
While her social media accounts do not explain her behavior, they paint a picture of a melancholic young woman who was unlucky in love and fed up with work.
Just 15 minutes before she called 911, at 9.20pm, she was sitting in the parking lot of a Target superstore and tweeting about wanting a family ‘now’.
And 30 minutes before that, she tweeted: ‘Today was a GREAT day God be looking out im telling you!!’
On the day of her disappearance, just an hour before she called the police at 10.34pm EST (9.34pm CT), Carlee was tweeting about wanting a family. She then told the 911 operator she had seen a child on the road
Carlee Russell with her boyfriend Thomar Simmons before she disappeared. He has now scrubbed all trace of her from his social media pages in a sign that he is not buying her abduction story either.
Russell’s boyfriend, Thomar Simmons, was initially supportive of his girlfriend and expressed relief at her return, but has now scrubbed all mention of her from his social media.
Simmons – who had been frantically appealing for updates – appears to have now gone sour on her.
He has not only deleted his posts about her disappearance, but has also erased every photo of her and them together that had been there before.
The pair recently visited New York City over the Fourth of July weekend.
Simmons has not commented publicly since the police started poking holes in his girlfriend’s story.
While he made loving appeals for information about her whereabouts, Russell’s Twitter account suggests all was not well in the relationship in the weeks before the ordeal.
Russell’s tweets in the days and weeks leading up to her disappearance paint a picture of a melancholic young woman who was sick of her job and unlucky in love.
When Russell was missing, her boyfriend frantically appealed for information on social media
Thomar Simmons and Carlee Russell recently visited New York together over July 4. He has since deleted her from his photos of the trip.
Happier times: He was among those who led the search for her
Simmons has now scrubbed Russell from his Instagram page. He is yet to comment publicly on the police revelation that there is no proof to her abduction story
She complained about men throwing ‘everything away’ for ‘a ‘h*e or stripper’.
‘I always say one thing I WON’T do is stay with someone who cheated on me,’ read another of her tweets.
In that instance, she was referring to another Twitter user and not Thomar.
But it was clear romance was on her mind.
‘Everyone wants to feel wanted,’ she tweeted at 3.08am on July 8, five days before she disappeared.
Last month, she hinted at being betrayed.
‘You think you have a bond with someone until they show you you never did,’ she tweeted.
Russell also complained about her job at the spa.
‘My job is really starting to get on my dang nerves,’ read a tweet posted at 7.20am on July 8.
In another tweet earlier in the summer, she talked about calling out sick.
‘I just can’t with life today,’ she said.
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