Carlee Russell update: What police will do next in investigation – USA TODAY

There are still many unanswered questions about what happened to Carlee Russell, the 25-year-old who went missing in Alabama for two days after she called 911 to report seeing a child on the side of an interstate, and police continue to investigate where she was during that time.
Police in Hoover, Alabama, just outside Birmingham, said they haven’t been able to follow up with Russell since her return on Saturday, and are hoping to ask her more questions about what happened. Much of her account still hasn’t been corroborated by police, including the existence of a toddler on the interstate.
Russell made a number of “relevant” internet searches in the days leading up to her disappearance about Amber Alerts, a movie about an abduction and bus tickets, Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Without much of her story verified and without more information from Russell directly, rumors and wild speculation have swirled on social media – was Russell abducted by a man with orange hair and a bald spot, as she said? Did she have a mental health crisis? Was it all made up?
“Anything’s possible,” said Michael Alcazar, a retired New York Police Department detective, who teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.
Keith Czeskleba, Hoover Police Department’s public information officer, told USA TODAY by email Thursday the investigation will continue with a focus on figuring out what happened during the 49 hours she was missing.
“We are confident that we will be able to do so,” Czeskleba said.
Czeskleba didn’t say exactly what police would do next in the unusual case, but Derzis said investigators are still hoping to get more information from Russell. Derzis said only Russell has the answers to many of the questions that remain.
The effort to get to the bottom of the case is exhaustive.
“We have not begun to count the number of hours and resources dedicated to this case – both from our agency and partner agencies as well,” Czeskleba told USA TODAY. “I cannot recall a missing person case like this in my time here – certainly not of this magnitude.”
Alcazar told USA TODAY police are likely running down all aspects of Russell’s story to see if they can be verified. For example, if he were investigating the case, he would try and track down the 18-wheeler Russell said she was held in the trailer of, checking surveillance footage at rest stops and truck stops.
Alcazar said police would search for witnesses who might have seen the incident, or may have seen the truck. Police had earlier said a single witness reported possibly seeing a gray vehicle and a man standing near Russell’s car.
Investigators also may go to bus stations where she did internet searches for a ticket and check security footage for her there, Alcazar said.
Many strange aspects of the case and Russell’s story give Alcazar “doubts,” he said, but police will do their due diligence.
“If her story is true and they didn’t conduct an investigation, and then there is a child missing and there is this red-headed perp, that would fall heavy on their shoulders if they didn’t do their proper investigation,” he said.
Russell was driving on the interstate between Birmingham and Hoover a week ago when she called 911 to report she spotted a toddler walking along the highway. She said she pulled over and was keeping an eye on the child. She then called her brother’s girlfriend, who reported hearing her scream before they lost contact.
When police arrived, Russell’s car, phone and some other belongings were found, but neither Russell nor a child were anywhere to be found. An intensive search ensued until two days later, Russell turned up at her home and knocked on the door.
There, she told police she had been grabbed by a man and taken into a car, then was put in the trailer of an 18-wheeler. She escaped and was recaptured, blindfolded, and taken to a house, she said. She said she heard both a male and a female voice. At some point she was made to take her clothes off and believed pictures were taken of her. Russell told police there were gaps in her memory, and she eventually escaped and ran through woods before she came out near her house.
INTERNET SEARCHES:Carlee Russell searched for Amber Alerts, bus tickets before disappearance, police say
Derzis said police haven’t been able to talk to Russell again as of Wednesday afternoon, four days after she reappeared. And, Derzis said Wednesday, “we’ve been unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statement made to investigators.”
Czeskleba didn’t answer questions from USA TODAY about what police would do if they could not speak with Russell again or whether the investigation would close. USA TODAY has tried reaching Russell’s family. Her parents told NBC News on Tuesday she had been abducted and “fought for her life.”
Alcazar said if police can’t talk with Russell again, there may be a point when Hoover police will have to decide to close the case because they’ve exhausted all leads.
“They’re going to do their due diligence and try and put a resolution to this case,” he said.


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