The boyfriend of Carlee Nichole Russell, an Alabama woman who disappeared but came back home safe Saturday night, said she was kidnapped and had to fight for her life. 25-year-old Russell was reported missing Thursday night after she called 911 at about 9:35 p.m. 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, according to police.
“At some point, she got out of the car and my daughter-in-law could hear her asking the child if they were OK,” said Russell’s mother Talitha Robinson-Russell to WBRC. “The child did not respond, or at least she did not hear her respond. 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.”
Police arrived at the scene but did not find Russell or the toddler except for her car and belongings including her phone. Police said Russell ordered food after closing from her job before she reported seeing the child.
Her family and friends started searching for her on Friday and asked for help. Hoover police said they received a call at 10:45 p.m. Saturday that Russell had returned to her home on foot. The police said they responded to the scene to investigate and Hoover fire medics also responded and assessed Russell before transporting her to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) hospital for evaluation.
She has since been released and her family are asking for privacy at this time, adding that they will speak in the “near future”. The police said they have taken an initial statement from Russell that will be used for the investigation.
Amid the ongoing investigation, Thomar Latrell Simmons, Russell’s boyfriend, has claimed that Russell was actually kidnapped and is now recovering. “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,” Simmons wrote on Facebook Sunday.
Russell’s parents had earlier said that they believed that the toddler was used as “bait” to lure their daughter out of her car and kidnap her. Russell’s mother Robinson-Russell wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday: “God is faithful and He has answered our prayers. We are so grateful to each of you for all the acts of kindness, generosity, and compassion you have shown. Our baby is safe!!!!!!!!!! Thank you Father God.”