Hoover Police Chief Nicholas C. Derzis confirmed on Friday that an arrest warrant was issued in connection with the case. Russell has since turned herself in to authorities and is facing a charge of false reporting to law enforcement authorities and a charge of falsely reporting an incident. If convicted, she could face up to a year in jail and a fine of $6,000.
Hoover police released her mugshot below.
“Her decisions that night created panic and alarm for the citizens of our city and even across the nation as concern grew that a kidnapper was on the loose using a small child as bait," added Derzis. "The story opened wounds for families whose loved ones really were victims of kidnappings, some of which even helped organize searches.”
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said his office intends to prosecute.
In a statement released on July 24, Russell admitted through her attorney that she was not kidnapped earlier this month. "There was no kidnapping on July 13, 2023. My client did not see a baby on the side of the road," the statement read. "My client did not leave the Hoover area when she was identified as a missing person. My client did not have any help in this incident, but this was a single act done by herself."
Russell apologized to the Hoover Police and everyone involved in the search effort as she remained "missing." She was fired from her job at a local spa and an investigation showed that she googled the movie Taken and "1-way bus ticket" before her disappearance, which police were "unable to verify."
Carlee Russell was reported missing on July 14 after she called authorities and family to tell them she found a toddler wandering on the side of a highway. Two days later, she returned to the home she shared with her parents and was taken to a nearby hospital. “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 Talitha Russell, Carlee's mother. “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.”
Boyfriend Thomar Latrell Simmons, who initially showed support for Russell upon her return, has since split up with her and criticized the "hoax" in a statement.
“Carlee's actions created hurt, confusion, and dishonesty,” he wrote on IG. “I was made aware of the false narrative after coming to the defense of my ex Carlee Russell. Myself and my family's nature was to react in love, and genuine concern. We are disgusted from the outcome of this entire situation. I strongly feel exactly like you all, blindsided with Carlee's actions.”