While investigators continue to try and figure out what exactly happened when 25-year-old Carlee Russell disappeared on Thursday, July 13, her parents are revealing some of what they know on national television.
Carlos and Talitha Russell sat down for an interview with NBC News and talked about the moment they first saw their daughter again after two days of not knowing where she was.
“We tried to hug her as best we could, but I had to stand back because she was not in a good state, so we had to stand back and let medical professionals work with her,” Talitha Russell said in an interview that aired on the "Today" show.
Carlee Russell called 911 late Thursday and reported seeing a baby walking along Interstate 459. Before police arrived, she called a family friend and told them about the baby. The person on the other line reported hearing a scream and then nothing.
The family believed Russell was abducted, and Talitha Russell said she believes a perpetrator is still out there.
“Carlee has given detectives her statement so they can continue to pursue her abductor,” she said.
The nation was on guard for two days, and Russell’s parents desperately pleaded for help finding their daughter. Suddenly, prayers were answered when she returned home late Saturday.
In an exclusive sit down with @NBCNews, the parents of 25-year-old Carlee Russell, Alabama woman who had been missing for two days, are speaking out. @PriscillaWT shares the details. pic.twitter.com/s6z5e3maO4— TODAY (@TODAYshow) July 18, 2023
Some on social media speculated that Carlee Russell made up the story and staged her own abduction.
The family refused to give any details on what happened and said they couldn't talk about the case because of the ongoing investigation. But they defended their daughter, saying the rumors spreading have been hurtful.
"There were actual, actually so many calls and texts from people who maliciously lied to us," Talitha Russell said. "… I just didn't know people could be so evil."
"[S] he's having to deal with the trauma of people just making completely false allegations about her," she added.
Police have traced Carlee Russell's steps from when she got off work at the Summit Thursday night until she made the 911 call. They have obtained traffic video and other physical evidence that is being analyzed.
No other reports were made about a toddler walking along I-459, but state and federal agencies were involved in the investigation.
Hoover Police said after Carlee Russell returned home on foot, she was taken to UAB Hospital, where she was treated and released. Her parents said they believe their daughter fought hard to come back home.
"Oh, she definitely fought for her life," said Talitha Russell. "There were moments when she physically had to fight for her life, and there were moments when she had to mentally fight for her life."
"The Hoover Police Department continues to be extremely grateful for the outpouring of support from the Hoover community and beyond, and all of the assistance provided by our law enforcement partners which are too numerous to name," the police department said in a press release. "We rejoice with the Russell family as they continue to rest and recover from this situation and ask for their wishes to be respected regarding their privacy."
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.