Carlethia “Carlee” Russell, 26, of Hoover, pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of false reporting of an incident in connection to her July 13, 2023, fake abduction.

News reports state Russell apologized in court, saying she was genuinely remorseful for causing panic.

“I made a grave mistake while trying to fight through various emotional issues and stress," Russell said. "I’m extremely remorseful for the panic, fear and various range of negative emotions that were experienced across the nation."

Russell’s case gained national attention after she disappeared from the side of Interstate 459. Investigators said moments before she disappeared, she called 911, saying there was a toddler on the side of the interstate in a diaper.

She then called a family friend to tell her about the situation, and the friend heard a scream and then nothing but traffic noise.

First responders arrived to find Russell’s vehicle, wig and cell phone but no toddler.

A full-scale search was launched, including local, state and federal agencies.

Russell returned home on foot on July 15 and was taken to the hospital for evaluation. She told a story about a kidnapping. However, detectives determined the whole thing was a hoax.

A Hoover municipal judge found Russell guilty of false reporting to law enforcement. She was ordered to a year in jail and nearly $20,000 in fines. However, her attorneys took the case to the state level to appeal. The fines were upheld Thursday, but the jail sentence was suspended after the judge said putting Russell in jail would waste resources.

The case became part of pop-culture history, with people sharing memes and even dressing up as Russell for Halloween. However, Hoover Police said the issue is no laughing matter.

The Alabama Legislature responded by considering a bill to make the false reporting of a crime a felony if there is a danger to a person or the public.

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