By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Carlethia “Carlee” Nichole Russell, a 25-year-old Alabama nursing student who told police she was abducted, admitted Monday through a statement from her lawyer that she was not kidnapped.
“We ask for your prayers for Carlee as she addresses her issues and attempts to move forward,” Hoover Police Chief Nicholas Derzis read on behalf of Russell’s lawyer. “Understanding that she made a mistake in this matter, Carlee again asks for your forgiveness and prayers.”
CrimeStoppers has reversed its decision to return over $63,000 in donations intended to help find Russell after her kidnapping story came under scrutiny, the latest fallout from what many now believe was a hoax.
The 25-year-old Alabama woman claimed she was kidnapped after stopping to assist a toddler wandering alone on Interstate 459 on July 13.
However, she reappeared at her home two days later.
Initially, the organization that offers anonymous tips about criminal activity pledged to return the funds raised during the two-day search for Russell.
CrimeStoppers has now said they’ve decided against it because of the suspicions surrounding her story.
Alabama police have also expressed reservations about the alleged abduction, revealing that Russell had conducted suspicious internet searches about kidnappings before the incident occurred.
Those findings have added to the uncertainty surrounding the case.
Still, Russell’s boyfriend, Thomar Latrell Simmons, has pleaded with the public to stop cyberbullying Russell.
Simmons emphasized the importance of considering her mental health and urged people to avoid targeting her online.
Russell went missing shortly after contacting 911 to report a toddler in a diaper walking along the highway.
Her mysterious return home on foot further deepened the mystery.
While her mother, Talitha Robinson-Russell, remains firm in her belief that Carlee was abducted and subsequently returned, law enforcement continues investigating the circumstances surrounding her disappearance.
The case has brought attention to the struggles faced by Black families when dealing with missing person cases.
African Americans often encounter delays in police investigations and are sometimes labeled “runaways” immediately.
In contrast, cases involving missing white women and children are urgently treated and receive national attention.
According to 2021 FBI data, Black people account for 31% of missing person reports despite making up only 14% of the US population.
White people represent 54% of such reports and 76% of the population.
Derrica Wilson, co-founder of the Black & Missing Foundation, underscored the significance of not losing sight of the broader picture.
Wilson told CNN that she currently has nearly 6,000 cases of missing Black people in her database, many of which remain unsolved.
She asserted that Russell’s case is an anomaly and that the focus should remain on helping the countless missing individuals of color who need assistance.
Wilson highlighted that disappearances in the Black community often stem from issues such as human trafficking, domestic violence, and mental health incidents.
Wilson stated that amplifying the cases of missing Black people remains an uphill battle, urging the public to continue raising awareness.
“For our community, we can’t lose sight of the bigger picture,” Wilson said. “We are disappointed that there are inconsistencies with her (Russell) story, especially when there are a staggering number of people of color who are still missing, and they need our help.”