The tragic disappearance of Carlethia’ Carlee’ Nichole Russell has a miraculous happy ending. She was found alive and returned home on Saturday, July 15, two days after she mysteriously went missing from a highway.
Carlee’s loved ones, her community, and hundreds of search volunteers can breathe a sigh of relief. WBRC reports the Hoover Police Department received a 911 call confirming Carlee’s return at 10:45 p.m.
The 25-year-old was found and returned to her family. First responders examined Carlee at home and took her to UAB Hospital for further evaluation. Loved ones gathered outside the hospital overnight as soon as the news broke.
— WBRC FOX6 News (@WBRCnews) July 16, 2023
Friends and family held a vigil to pray for Carlee to come home safely on Friday. Wasting no precious time in the first 48 hours, volunteers gathered in massive search parties. CrimeStoppers offered a $55,000 reward for information on her whereabouts.
— Mwasi Sans Niongo (@jenny_gxo) July 16, 2023
A few hours before Carlee returned home, police released enhanced traffic camera footage from Interstate 459. The clip shows her car pulled over with the hazard lights on as she appeared to step out of the vehicle.
— Fast News Network (@fastnewsnet) July 16, 2023
Read more about Carlee Russell’s case and return home two days after her disappearance after the flip.
What Happened In The Moments Leading Up To Carlee Russell’s Disappearance?
The chilling details of Carlee’s vanishing captivated the hearts and minds of millions nationwide. As BOSSIP reported, she was on her way home from work on Thursday night when she pulled over to be a Good Samaritan. She pulled over and called 911 to report that she saw a child walking along Interstate 459.
A family member was on the phone with Carlee as she checked on the toddler she spotted. They lost contact while the line remained open.
“In the process at some point she got out of the car and my daughter-in-law could hear her asking the child if they were OK. The child did not respond, or at least she did not hear her respond, he or she respond,” said Carlee’s mother, Talitha Russell
“And then she heard our daughter Carlee scream and from there on all we could hear was noise…background noise in her phone which we later found out was noise from the interstate.”
My prayer is for ALL missing Black women/men/children to have this type of effort behind them. This is what happens when the search for missing people is immediate . #CarleeRussell
— TheFineAuthor (@TheFineAuthor_) July 16, 2023
If that wasn’t terrifying enough, Hoover police recovered Carlee’s wig, hat, phone, and Apple watch at the scene with her abandoned car. Many concerned comments feared these signs pointed to a child used as bait to abduct her, potentially for human trafficking. Kidnappings near major highways allow traffickers to quickly move victims across state lines before they’re even reported missing.
“We are trusting God, we are staying positive, we are not allowing any negative thoughts to enter our minds so all that we are doing is trusting God, believe in God that our daughter will be brought home safely,” Talithia continued.
What Happened To Carlee Russell?
Hoover Police Chief Nicholas Derzis explained they still don’t know how she returned home. “She walked up, banged on the door, and that was her,” he told WBRC.
It is so good to know that #CarleeRussell has been found alive. The public’s “right to know”, however, does not include a right to know about any trauma she may have endured. She & her family deserve privacy, time, & healing. https://t.co/iujteK13P9
— Rev. & Prof. Cornell William Brooks🟧 (@CornellWBrooks) July 16, 2023
The search for Carlee went viral, with thousands of people circulating pictures and details to identify her. Derzis cautions against public speculation about what happened to Carlee as they continue the investigation.
“We work with facts. With social media, you got so many people that think they know what’s taken place. Right now, we’re just very pleased that she’s home,” Derzis said.
“The first thing is to give Carlee and family a little time to get themselves back together. I know it’s been a tough experience for them. When we think it’s time to sit down and have a conversation with Carlee and try to get some facts, we’ll do that.”
Now that #CarleeRussell has been found, I hope our community sees its power. When we speak collectively & unified, the world bends to listen.
— Whitney Alese (@TheReclaimed) July 16, 2023
Many questions remain unanswered, but the overwhelming support to search for Carlee might have saved her life. Several comments pointed out that high visibility immediately after a disappearance makes traffickers more likely to release a victim to avoid getting caught.
I’ve been following Toni Rivera on IG for years & I remember a while back she said the more headlines a person makes the more likely traffickers are to let them go because it could jeopardize their entire operation. I believe that played a part in #CarleeRussell’s safe return https://t.co/JkwlD7Nt2Q
— 💖✨ 𝒥𝓊𝓈𝓉 𝐸𝓇𝒾𝒸𝒶 ✨💖 (@StompOnYoTweets) July 16, 2023
Missing Black women rarely receive the news coverage and resources that make these happy endings more likely. However, 40% of trafficking victims in the U.S. are Black.
We wish Carlee Russell a peaceful recovery as she reunites with her family.