Carlee Russell’s internet search history before her mysterious disappearance included terms like “how to take money from a register without being caught,” “one-way bus ticket,” and questions about Amber Alerts, including whether you had to pay for a notice to be sent out. She also searched for information about Taken, a movie centered around a woman’s abduction, according to the Hoover, Alabama, Police Department.
In a Wednesday press conference, Police Chief Nick Derzis said that investigators had found several other searches on Russell’s phone “that appeared to shed light on her mindset,” but that they would not immediately be made public “out of respect for her privacy.”
Derzis also provided an update on the timeline investigators are assembling of the hours leading up to Russell’s alleged kidnapping on July 13.
Russell left her workplace around 8:20 p.m. that night, Derzis said, smuggling out a bathrobe, toilet paper, and “other items belong to the business.” The 25-year-old nursing student then drove to Target, where she stocked up on Cheez-Its and granola bars.
She spoke to relatives over the phone as she drove towards the interstate, according to the chief. Shortly after, Russell made a 911 call to report that she had seen a child wandering on the side of an Alabama interstate.
Audio of the 911 call was played in full at the press conference. In the tape, Russell can be heard describing the child as a white male. She said he was wearing a white t-shirt and a diaper.
Derzis said that Russell drove 600 yards, or the equivalent of six football fields, while on the 911 call, telling the dispatcher that she was following the child in her car. “To think that a toddler, barefoot, 3 or 4 years old” could have traveled that distance in that time, Derzis said, “is hard for me to understand.”
Hoover Police said earlier this week that investigators had not found any evidence of a child walking on the side of the road at the time of Russell’s 911 call.
The alarming call and her abrupt disappearance from the highway sparked a kidnapping investigation, a two-day search, and national headlines. Russell suddenly returned on foot to her family—who have said they believe she was abducted before she resurfaced on July 15.
“She definitely fought for her life,” Russell’s mother told NBC’s Today on Tuesday. “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.”
On Wednesday, Derzis laid out the details of Russell’s initial statement—a harrowing story involving an orange-haired kidnapper and an 18-wheeler truck.
She told investigators that, after calling 911, she had gotten out of her vehicle to check on the toddler when a man materialized “from the trees.” He picked Russell up as she screamed, forcing her over a fence and into a vehicle, according to Derzis.
“The next thing she remembers is being in the trailer of an 18-wheeler,” Derzis said. Russell was able to escape the truck on foot but was recaptured, blindfolded, and brought to a house. There, she was made to undress, the chief explained. “She believes they took pictures of her but she does not remember them having any physical or sexual contact.”
At some point, Russell was able to stage a second escape, she said, running through “lots of woods” before making it back to her family’s home.
Derzis said at the press conference that police had been unable to verify “most” of the information in this initial statement, and that attempts to solicit a second interview with her had been unsuccessful.
The chief cautioned that the investigation remained ongoing, and said that investigators are looking to speak to Russell again. But police “have no reason to believe” there is a threat to the public in relation to the case.
“As you can see, there are many questions left to be answered,” Derzis said. “But only Carlee can provide those answers.”