Carlee Russell, the Alabama woman who lied about her kidnapping that led to a nationwide search, was on Wednesday sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay $17,974 in restitution after she was found guilty of two misdemeanor counts in connection with the case.
As previously reported by Face2Face Africa, Russell had claimed she was kidnapped after she saw a baby on the side of the road. But the 25-year-old later admitted to making up the story.
Per NBC News, Russell entered a not-guilty plea during her court appearance on Wednesday. Her lawyers also said they were going to appeal the verdict by Hoover Municipal Judge Brad Bishop. The Bessemer Circuit Court in Jefferson County will hear the appeal case.
“She has apologized for what transpired,” Russell’s attorney, Emory Anthony, told reporters on Wednesday. Anthony also said they “totally disagree with” the jail time that authorities are seeking.
Anthony also informed the news outlet that they were not in favor of the plea offer and filed an appeal at the circuit court. The judge’s ruling was a formality as a verdict is needed in order for an appeal to be heard at a state court, WVTM reported. Russell’s attorneys have also asked for her appeal trial to be heard by a jury.
Russell was reported missing after she called 911 to report that she saw a male toddler in a diaper walking on the side of the I-459 South in Hoover, a suburb of Birmingham. Russell had closed from her job at the Woodhouse Day Spa in the Summit and was almost home when she saw the child, her parents said. She stopped her vehicle to check on the child and called a family member but her family lost contact with her even though the phone line remained open, police said at the time.
Police arrived at the scene but did not find Russell or the toddler except for her car and belongings including her phone. Her family and friends started searching for her and asked for help. Hoover police said they received a call days later that Russell had returned to her home on foot. She told the police that a man with orange hair kidnapped her and she was blindfolded in a house where she was forced to get undressed.
But Derzis said the police later found that Russell made various online searches before she was reported missing. Those searches included “do you have to pay for an Amber Alert” and “how to take money from a register without being caught.” She also searched for “Taken”, a movie about a child who was kidnapped.
At a news conference held by authorities, a statement from Russell’s attorney stated that she was not kidnapped and did not see a child along Interstate 459.
“There was no kidnapping on Thursday, July 13, 2023. My client did not see a baby on the side of the road,” the statement from Russell’s attorney, Anthony, said. “My client did not leave the Hoover area when she was identified as a missing person.”
Russell in the statement apologized to the people who aided in searching for her. “My client apologizes for her actions to this community, the volunteers who were searching for her, to the Hoover Police Department and other agencies as well and to her friends and family. We ask for your prayers for Carlee as she addresses her issues and attempts to move forward, understanding that she made a mistake in this matter,” the statement added.