Carlee Russell searched movie 'Taken,' Amber Alerts before disappearance: Police

Russell called to report a toddler on the interstate before she disappeared.

ByDeena Zaru and Armando Garcia ABCNews logo
Thursday, July 20, 2023
Woman searched movie 'Taken,' Amber Alerts before disappearance
Carlee Russell, 25, searched Google for Amber Alerts and the movie "Taken" before her disappearance, Hoover Police Department Chief Nicholas Derzis said Wednesday.

Carlee Russell, the Alabama woman who returned home on Saturday after she went missing for two days, searched for Amber Alerts and the movie "Taken" on her phone before her disappearance, Hoover Police Department Chief Nicholas Derzis told reporters Wednesday.

Russell also made searches related to bus tickets in the hours before she went missing, he said.

"There were other searches on Carlee's phone that appeared to shed some light on her mindset," Derzis said, adding he would not share them out of privacy.

"Taken," the 2008 movie starring Liam Neeson, centers around a young woman who is abducted and the quest to save her from her kidnappers.

Watch the full press conference

A press conference was held after Carlee Russell, an Alabama woman, returned home on Saturday after she went missing for two days.

Derzis said that it's "highly unusual" that Russell searched for Amber Alerts and "Taken" in the hours before she went missing.

"We want to talk in facts and I do think it's highly, highly unusual to the day that someone gets kidnapped that several -- seven hours or eight hours before that -- that they're searching the internet, Googling the movie 'Taken' about an abduction. I find that very, very strange," Derzis said.

Russell told police that she was taken by a male and a female when she stopped to check on a toddler that she reported on the highway, Derzis said.

"She stated when she got out of her vehicle to check on the child a man came out of the trees and mumbled that he was checking on the baby. She claimed that the man then picked her up and she screamed," he said.

Asked if investigators saw a man abduct Russell in the surveillance video of the interstate, Derzis said that they didn't.

"From what we can tell, we don't see anybody on the interstate other than her car and then someone getting out of her driver's side," he said. "We have sent that that off to the FBI for enhancement."

In this photo released by the Hoover Police Department, Carlee Russell is shown.
Hoover Police Department

Russell called 911 to report a toddler walking down the highway before her disappearance, but the Hoover Police Department said in a press release on Tuesday evening that investigators have not found any evidence of a child walking on the side of the road.

"The Hoover Police Department has not located any evidence of a toddler walking down the interstate, nor did we receive any additional calls about a toddler walking down the interstate, despite numerous vehicles passing through that area as depicted by the traffic camera surveillance video," the press release said.

Police also previously said that they did not receive any calls to report a missing toddler.

"We've been unable to verify most of Carlee's initial statement made to investigators and we have no reason to believe that there is a threat to the public safety related to this particular case," he said.

The police chief emphasized on Wednesday that the investigation is ongoing and police want to speak with Russell again.

Asked if Russell could face charges, Derzis said "that's not something we've discussed," and added that police are still "going through the investigation."

Derzis went on discuss the resources that went into the investigation.

Carlethia "Carlee" Nichole Russell was last heard from on Wednesday.

"People have to understand that when someone says something like this, we put every available resource -- everybody comes from a state, local, federal -- it's just a lot of work," he said.

"It is a little frustrating to think that all this has been done and when we can't find anything out," he added.

Asked if a toxicology report has been done and if any drugs were found in Russell's system, Derzis said, "We have no report for that."

And when asked if there's an indication of mental illness in this case, he said, "Not that I'm aware of."

The update came amid questions surrounding the circumstances of Russell's disappearance. Police said in the statement that detectives are continuing to investigate what happened from the time she called 911 on Wednesday at around 9:30 p.m. ET to report a toddler on Interstate 459 in Alabama, until she returned home on foot late Saturday.

ABC News has reached out to Russell's family for comment.

The Hoover Police Department previously said the 25-year-old stopped her car to check on the toddler she reported after making the 911 call and called a family member to report what she saw. The family member lost contact with Russell, but the line remained open, according to police.

Officers who responded to Russell's 911 call found her vehicle and some of her belongings on the scene, but there was no sign of Russell or the child she reported. Authorities said Tuesday that Russell stopped at a Target to buy snacks, but they were not found in her belongings at the vehicle.

Police said in the statement on Tuesday that detectives have obtained surveillance video of Russell that shows her walking alone in her neighborhood before she arrived home on Saturday night.

Medics were dispatched to Russell's residence on Saturday after she returned home to aid an "unresponsive but breathing" person as described in the 911 call, but police said that first responders found Russell "conscious and speaking" when she arrived and she was transported to a local hospital, where she was treated and released.

Asked about concerns that the next time a woman of color goes missing the case may not be taken seriously, Derzis said, "We investigate every crime to the fullest just like we have this one."

ABC News' Nadine El-Bawab and Mariama Jalloh contributed to this report.