It Seems Carlee Russell Lied About Being Kidnapped — But That Doesn't Mean We Should Stop Believing Black Women

Though the investigation is not yet over, in a press conference, police said they have been unable to verify much of Russell's claims.

hoover police press conference on carlee russell disappearance WVTM13 / Hoover PD

25-year-old Carlee Russell disappeared on July 13th, 2023 after making a 911 call about seeing a toddler on the side of the road. She returned home on July 15th, 2023, after an intense search, prompting questions about her disappearance.

In a world where cases involving missing women of color often go unsolved, Russell's safe return is undoubtedly a good thing. However, details about her disappearance have since emerged causing people to question the validity of her story.


On July 19th, Hoover Police held a press conference to further discuss the Carlee Russell case. 

In the press conference, Chief Nick Derzis said that there is no reason to believe there is any threat or danger to the public connected to this case. He continued by stating that the police have not been able to confirm much of the information Russell provided to them in her initial interview.

RELATED: Man Feels 'Betrayed' & Refuses To Go See His Missing Wife 30 Years Later After She Turns Up Exactly Where He Thought She'd Be

In her initial interview, Russell claimed that she saw a baby on the side of the road. Then a man came out of the trees saying he was checking on the baby. This was when Russell claimed the man picked her up and put her in the 18-wheeler.


Russell reported that she did not remember much about the man but was able to escape the 18-wheeler. She was caught again and put into another car. According to Russell, the next day she was fed crackers by a woman and put into a different car. She was able to escape again in the west Hoover area. Detectives were unable to confirm this information.

According to Derzis, surveillance footage showed Russell taking a bathrobe and a roll of toilet paper from her workplace. She then went to get food before stopping at Target to purchase snacks. Then she departed to Interstate 459, where she made the 911 call regarding the baby. 

Police also shared Russell’s "highly unusual" internet history from a few hours before her disappearance. 

The U.S. Secret Service was asked to assist in the investigation and analyzed her search history. The following items were searched by Russell:

  • Do you have to pay for an amber alert
  • How to make money from a register without being caught
  • Birmingham bus station
  • One way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville
  • The movie 'Taken'
  • Maximum age of an amber alert

According to police, Russell’s toxicology report was not suspicious and there is currently no indication of a mental illness. Police have still not determined if any crime was committed in this incident.


RELATED: Mom Of Autisic Boy Who Often Runs Away Worries No One Will Stop To Help Him After Carlee Russell Went Missing

As more details emerge in this case, people have begun to question Russell and her family.

Before the press conference came out, people defended Russell on the internet. Some believed that the media was once again choosing to jump to conclusions and victim blame, and as a result, people were attacking Russell. However, the press conference has led to rumors regarding the truth behind Russell's disappearance.

In a statement, Russell's mom Talitha Robinson-Russell attempted to dispel rumors regarding donations received in the wake of her daughter's disappearance.

"We understand there are some questions about the reward donations through CrimeStoppers. It is my understanding from information I received when the reward was set up that any donations received that were not used for the reward would be returned to each donor," Robinson-Russell said in her statement, ensuring the family has not set up any GoFundMe accounts or asked for donations. "When we initially asked for the help of the public in searching and praying for Carlee's safe return we asked for sincere prayers not prayers or support that came with strings or entitlement," she added.


RELATED: How Angela Lansbury Saved Her Teen Daughter From Charles Manson

Russell’s case should not take away from the thousands of women of color who are still missing.

In 2022, there were 546,568 people reported missing in the United States missing and 39% were people of color. According to the NAACP, as of 2023, there are more than 64,000 Black women that remain missing across the United States.

Despite these numbers, the media often does not report on their stories. When young white women go missing, on the other hand, their stories frequently receive a ton of media coverage. As reported in an article in the Harvard Political Review, this phenomenon is known as the “missing white woman syndrome.” 

The article continued by displaying how the media portrays these missing persons cases as skewed. “Media around the disappearance of white women often focuses on their roles in the community… this causes people to sympathize with them and push for their safety,” the article says. But when discussing missing people of color, the media oftens chooses to highlight the problems presented in their lives. These problems include criminal history, drug abuse, or dangerous living situations, and they use these details to “justify the tragedies.” 


RELATED: Family Of Woman Who Died While On A Date With Cop Claims Police Are Trying 'Cover Up' What Really Happened

The justification instills a distance between the media consumers and the victims, making it harder for media consumers to sympathize with them. This can also “generate apathy for the victims and normalize the tragedy.”

In a tweet, theologian and author Candice Marie Benbow said that the Russell press conference made her sad but she will “never apologize for believing/advocating for Black girls and women. And I will do it every chance I get.”

To say the media is doing people of color a disservice in terms of coverage of missing persons cases is an understatement. The evidence is clear and there needs to be more action advocating for equal treatment of missing Black women. Cases like Carlee Russell’s or the negative portrayal of Black women in the media should not continue to allow people to turn a blind eye to advocating for these women.


RELATED: Carlee Russell's Boyfriend Deletes Photos Of Her Amidst Rumors Alleging She Staged Her Disappearance To Get Him Back

Tarah Hickel is a Washington-based writer who is a frequent contributor to YourTango. She focuses on entertainment and news stories including current events and human interest pieces.