Parents of Alabama woman who went missing for 48 hours express relief at her return

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The parents of Carlee Russell, the Alabama woman who went missing for roughly 48 hours after calling 911, have spoken of their relief following her return home, as police continue to investigate her disappearance and the time leading up to it.

“Numerous evidentiary items are still being evaluated, and those items are key in the process of determining exactly what took place in the approximately 49 hours Carlee was missing, but also what took place prior to her disappearance,” the Hoover Police Department said in a update Tuesday evening.

A news conference on the case is scheduled for Wednesday, and the department said additional information will be released.

Russell, 25, disappeared Thursday after calling 911 just after 9:30 p.m. She told the 911 operator she saw a toddler on Interstate 459 South, police in Hoover, a city of around 92,000 south of Birmingham, said in a timeline of her disappearance. She returned home Saturday, police said.

Speaking on NBC's "TODAY" show in an interview that aired Tuesday, Talitha Robinson-Russell, Carlee Russell’s mother, said she felt "just so much joy" after her daughter returned home on Saturday.

"We tried to hug her as best we could, but I had to stand back because she was not in a good state," she said.

Before Carlee Russell disappeared, she called 911 and then a relative to say she had seen a male toddler in a diaper on the side of the road and that she was stopping to check on him, but that relative lost contact with her, police have said.

Hoover police said in an update Tuesday the department "has not located any evidence of a toddler walking down the interstate" but they continued to investigate what happened.

There were no other 911 calls about a toddler and video showed numerous vehicles pass through that area, police said Tuesday.

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

When officers arrived at the scene, they found her wig, cellphone and purse on the road near her car, but no sign of Russell or the child she called about, police said.

Some snack food items she bought at a Target before calling 911 were not found in her vehicle, police said Tuesday.

By Saturday evening, police said they received a call notifying them that Russell had returned home. Authorities responded to her home and she was transported to a local hospital for evaluation, treated and released.

Talitha Robinson-Russell and Carlos Russell, Carlee Russell’s father, told the "TODAY" show they could not share details on how their daughter returned home or on her account of what unfolded during her disappearance, citing the ongoing police investigation.

Hoover police said Tuesday that detectives have video of Carlee Russell in her neighborhood "walking down the sidewalk alone prior to her arrival at her residence."

Russell’s mother said in the "TODAY" interview that her daughter had been abducted and that she believed the perpetrator was still out there. She also said her daughter had to fight for her life while she was missing.

Asked on Monday to comment on whether she was abducted, Hoover police public information officer Keith Czeskleba said only that authorities had “spoken to Carlee once and are following up on that information, however we are not able to publicly share the details from our initial interview.”

Police said Tuesday they are waiting to speak with Russell again to get a "more detailed statement about the sequence of events during that timeframe."

In the days since her return, Russell’s father, Carlos Russell, said his daughter was struggling with “bad dreams” and “moments where some things make her cringe, afraid,” including loud noises. “Just different things that trigger,” he said.

Her mother said the family has also been left traumatized. She also said they received "many" texts and calls from people who "maliciously lied" to them and pretended to know their daughter's whereabouts while she was missing. "I just didn't know people could be so evil," Talitha Robinson-Russell said, noting that there has also been widespread speculation around what happened during her daughter's disappearance in the wake of her return home.

Jefferson State Community College has said that Carlee Russell is a student there.

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