Why Did Carlee Russell Do It? The One Question on Everyone’s Mind Has Many Theories

Theories as to why Carlee Russell range from trying to get back at an ex-boyfriend to suffering from a drug problem.

Elizabeth Randolph - Author

Mar. 11 2024, Updated 6:12 p.m. ET

On July 13, 2023 the family of 25 year-old Carlee Russell reported her missing after the nursing student called 911 to report a toddler walking on the side of Interstate 459. Days later, Russell was found safe and sound, but her safe return was far from the real story that has since thrust her into the court of public opinion. After Russell's return, the Hoover, Ala. police department found evidence that disputed her claims of being kidnapped.

Article continues below advertisement

The doubt turned into a social media frenzy, discussing if Russell really staged her own abduction. On July 24, 2023 Russell's attorney released a statement admitting “there was no kidnapping.” Three months later in October 2023, Russell was found guilty of filing a false police report and falsely reporting seeing a baby, per the New York Post. Theories surrounding why Russell might have done this are all over social media. Let's take a look at a few of them.

Article continues below advertisement

Why did Carlee Russell do it? Theories have ranged from a lover's dispute to mental health struggles.

Before Russell ultimately admitted to staging her kidnapping, Hoover Police Chief Nicolas C. Derzis said his team found evidence that suggested Russell wasn’t telling the truth. The officer stated in a news conference that he couldn’t verify Russell's story or that a toddler was present when she went missing.

Chief Derzis also said her Google searches were also suspicious, as she searched for phrases like “one-way bus tickets,” “how to take money from a cash register without getting caught,” and if “someone had to pay for an Amber Alert.”

After discovering Russell's search history and the fact that there was never a missing child, social media had a field day discussing why she lied. The former spa employee became fodder for memes, videos, and online forums.

On Twitter, users claimed Russell was attempting to get her boyfriend Thomar Simmons’s attention. According to a Facebook user named Sharon, who posted about the case on July 17, Simmons cheated on Russell with an exotic dancer, and she was using her hoax as a ploy for revenge, similar to Gone Girl starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.

Article continues below advertisement
Article continues below advertisement

Another theory surrounding Russell's case is that she possibly abused drugs during her two-day disappearance. In Sharon's Facebook thread, the user said Russell's drug misuse had become so severe she had begun stealing from her job, Woodhouse Spa, before she started her hoax.

Other internet commentators have stated Russell could have had issues regarding her mental health, going so far as to diagnose her with psychotic paranoia or hallucinations, per The Root. However, Carlee’s parents, Talithia and Carlos Russell, said during their Today Show interview that Carlee was in a “good state,” though they remained tight-lipped about the case.

Article continues below advertisement

Carlee Russell’s whereabouts during her 49-hour disappearance remain unknown.

Despite the various theories surrounding why Russell chose to stage her disappearance that fateful July 2023 night, Russell hasn’t said much about the case. However, less than two weeks after she made headlines for going missing, her attorney, Emory Anthony, released a statement where Russell admitted for the first time that her kidnapping was a hoax.

Article continues below advertisement

During a televised news conference led by Chief Derzis, Russell's lawyer read his client’s statement. In it, the student admitted she was never kidnapped and apologized to those who used their resources to search for her.

"My client apologizes for her actions to this community, to the volunteers who were searching for her, to the Hoover Police Department and other agencies as well," Carlee’s statement read, per NBC News.

Article continues below advertisement

And while rumors swirled that Russell hid out at a Red Roof Inn when she vanished for 49 hours, Hoover Police confirmed they still don’t know where Russell was during that time, as she hasn’t yet shared that information. Chief Derzis also said at the news conference on July 24 he and his officers haven’t decided if they will press any charges against her but stressed to the local community there isn’t a kidnapper on the loose.

One place we do know Russell will be is back on court on March 21, 2024 said COURT TV. After her October conviction, Russell's lawyers appealed her case to circuit court. This came on the heels of her lawyers agreeing to a "'stipulate and appeal' — a procedure in which a defendant acknowledges evidence against them, a guilty decision is entered and the case moves up to circuit court." The March 21 date is a plea hearing.

If you or someone you know needs help, use SAMHSA Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator to find support for mental health and substance use disorders in your area or call 1-800-662-4357 for 24-hour assistance.

More from Distractify

Latest Human Interest News and Updates

    Opt-out of personalized ads

    © Copyright 2024 Distractify. Distractify is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.