Carlee Russell Is Sorry for Faking Her Kidnapping

Photo: Hoover Police Department

On Thursday, Carlee Russell, the woman who admitted to faking her own kidnapping in Alabama last summer, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges of making a false police report, CNN reports. She also apologized, calling her actions “a grave mistake.” The 26-year-old added, “I am extremely remorseful for the panic, fear, and various range of negative emotions that were experienced across the nation.”

Last July, Russell called 911 to report seeing a toddler walking down the highway alone. However, after that, she seemed to vanish into thin air. By the time police got to the scene, Russell’s car, wig, and cell phone were there, but neither she nor any child were, causing a panic that spread far beyond Alabama. Over the next 49 hours, Russell’s photo was shared on TV and across social media as the police department in Hoover, Alabama, and other authorities searched for her. Two days after disappearing, Russell appeared at her family’s front door. She told police that she had been kidnapped and held hostage by a man and a woman.

By that time, authorities were already suspicious of her story, and Hoover police chief Nick Derzis said the investigation was “not over.” Police found that shortly before disappearing, Russell searched online for things like, “Do you have to pay for an Amber Alert?” and “How to take money from a register without being caught?” And a week after returning home, an attorney for Russell told the Hoover Police Department that Russell had not seen a child. People in Alabama and elsewhere called for Russell to face criminal charges for lying and wasting police resources. Later that month, Russell was charged with false reporting to law enforcement, and she voluntarily turned herself in to the police. In October, a municipal judge found her guilty and sentenced her to a year in jail. Her attorney said she planned to appeal the decision and a jury trial was scheduled for March.

However, in a plea hearing on Thursday, judge David Carpenter dismissed Russell’s prior one-year sentence, saying that putting Russell in jail would be a further waste of government resources. “Although we are very upset about what you’ve done, you’re not a threat to the community,” the judge said. He sentenced Russell to one year of supervised probation and 100 hours of community service, and ordered her to pay the city of Hoover $17,974.88 in restitution.

Russell told the court on Thursday that she wanted to “acknowledge and take accountability for the pain and embarrassment that I inflicted upon my family, my church family, friends, neighbors, community, and all of those who were directly involved in search efforts for me.” She added, “I wholeheartedly can say that I never had any malicious intent to hurt anyone, and I pray you will feel my sincerity … as I prepare to pick up the pieces and go on to restore my life.”

After the sentencing, Derzis told reporters he was “very disappointed in the decision not to give any jail time.” He added that searching for Russell cost at least $40,000 to $50,000 and that her apology came “seven, eight months late.”

Carlee Russell Is Sorry for Faking Her Kidnapping