Boyfriend of Alabama woman Carlee Russell suggests she was kidnapped before her safe return

Russell’s disappearance quickly sparked national headlines and a statewide search before she returned to her family’s home alone late Saturday.

A split-pane of Thomar Latrell Simmons and Carlee Russell together and Carlee Russell alone.
Thomar Latrell Simmons and Carlee Russell (left), and Carlee Russell. (Photos via Instagram; Hoover Police Dept.)
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The boyfriend of 25-year-old Carlee Russell, an Alabama woman who disappeared last week after reporting seeing a toddler walking along the interstate, suggested she had been kidnapped in a social media post Sunday announcing her safe return.

“She was literally fighting for her life for 48 hours, so until she’s physically & mentally stable again she is not able to give any updates or whereabouts on her kidnapper at this very moment,” Thomar Latrell Simmons said in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon. “All I [ask] from everyone right now is to be respectful of Carlee’s situation.”

It’s unclear if Simmons’s claims came directly from Russell, her family or officials, as no one has given any details about her disappearance in public posts or statements to date. Law enforcement has been mum on the investigation and has provided little insight into what happened to Russell after Thursday evening.

“As we continue to investigate we will release information that is determined to be factual and pertinent to the public,” Hoover, Ala., police said in a statement Sunday afternoon. Police added that they had not received any calls of someone missing a child.

The department did not respond to Yahoo News’ request for comment.

Carlee Russell.
Carlee Russell. (Hoover Police Dept.)

Simmons’s post offers the first piece of possible insight into Russell’s sudden disappearance Thursday, which sparked national headlines and a statewide search before she returned, alone, to her family’s home late Saturday. In another post, Russell’s mother shared the relief of her daughter’s safe return.

“Our baby is safe!” Talitha Robinson-Russell wrote in a Facebook post Sunday afternoon and thanked supporters for their generosity and compassion. “Please consider the fact we have not slept for 3 nights and we are mentally and physically exhausted. … We do want to ask for privacy at this time to allow us to just love on our daughter and each other with our close family and friends.”

What happened?

On Thursday, around 9:30 p.m., Russell was driving home after picking up dinner when she called 911 to report that she saw a young boy in a diaper walking along the side of I-459, according to Hoover police. Afterward, Russell called her brother’s girlfriend while she allegedly approached the child to ask if he was OK. But the girlfriend never heard the child say anything. Instead, she heard Russell scream and then lost contact with her, hearing only traffic in the background. Russell, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Auburn University at Montgomery and was taking nursing classes at Jefferson State Community College, had just gotten off her part-time job at a spa in Birmingham.

Police were dispatched to the area within three minutes and found Russell’s car door open, the engine running and her phone on the ground alongside her hat and wig, Robinson-Russell told Soon local, state and federal agencies offered assistance and resources to aid in the search for her, using drones and nearby traffic video footage.

Then, shortly before 11 p.m. on Saturday, police received a call from the Russell family home that she had returned home, on foot, alone. The Hoover Fire Department transported Russell to UAB Hospital to be evaluated. She was treated and later released.

Carlee Russell.
Carlee Russell. (Hoover Police Dept.)

Proliferation of missing Black women

For many observers on social media, Russell’s safe return is evidence of what can happen when the same amount of media coverage is given to Black women as other demographics.

In a 2016 study, “Missing White Woman Syndrome,” attorney and legal scholar Zach Sommers found that when Black people are missing, their disappearances generate far fewer stories than those of people in other groups.

“At any given time, there are tens of thousands of Americans categorized as ‘missing’ by law enforcement,” Sommers wrote. “However, only a fraction of those individuals receive news coverage, leading some commentators to hypothesize that missing persons with certain characteristics are more likely to garner media attention than others: namely, white women and girls.”

And in the U.S., Black women are disappearing at an alarming rate. In 2020, 268,884 women were reported missing, according to the National Crime Information Center, with nearly 100,000 of them being Black women and girls. Black women make up less than 15% of the U.S. population, but they accounted for more than a third of missing women in 2020.