Carlee Russell Pleads Guilty In False Kidnapping Case, Avoids Jail Time

Carlee Russell, the nursing student from Alabama who faked her own disappearance last July, has pleaded guilty to criminal charges. According to NPR, Russell admitted that she was not kidnapped and also never saw a toddler on the side of the interstate ahead of being “captured.”

On Thursday (March 21), the 26-year-old stood before a Jefferson County, Ala. court, where she confessed her guilt on two misdemeanor counts of filing a false police report. In result, Russell has been sentenced to 12 months of supervised probation and ordered to pay almost $18,000 in restitution, in addition to community service and mental health counseling.

Reportedly, Judge David Carpenter dismissed Russell’s suggested 12-month sentence because he felt it would be a “waste of government resources” to put her behind bars. He said, “One of the most expensive things the government does is incarcerate people … we need to reserve our jail for people who are genuinely a threat to the community. Although we are very upset about what you’ve done, you’re not a threat to the community.”

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On the other hand, State prosecutor Clark Morris pushed for jail time, despite the judge’s decision.

“This case has always been about respect for law enforcement and respect for this community as a whole,” Morris stated. “Ms. Russell faked a kidnapping, duped the community, and contrived this situation. We, judge, still don’t know, to this day where she was, how she got there, what she was doing, and with whom she was doing it,” she said.

Following her plea, Russell emotionally addressed the court and apologized to the community for her actions.

“I made a grave mistake while trying to fight through various emotional issues and stress,” she stated. “I’m extremely remorseful for the panic, fear and various range of negative emotions that were experienced across the nation. I want to to specifically acknowledge and take accountability for the pain and embarrassment that I inflicted upon my family, my church family, friends, neighbors, community, and all of those who were directly involved in search efforts for me.”

Russell allegedly went missing on July 13, 2023, after calling a 911 dispatcher and fabricating a story about pulling over for a toddler who was wandering on the side of an interstate highway. Once officers arrived on the scene, Russell and the child were nowhere to be found. However, her vehicle, wig and cellphone were found on the road where she last spoke to authorities.

Without explanation of why she would fake her own kidnapping, Russell returned home on July 15 and told detectives that she was captured by a man who emerged from the woods after she exited her car to see about the toddler. She also added that the strange man blindfolded her, took her to a house and forced her to undress.