UNITED STATES NEWS

Alabama woman set for a plea hearing months after police say she faked her own kidnapping

Mar 9, 2024, 9:14 AM

BESSEMER, Ala. (AP) — A new plea hearing has been set for an Alabama woman accused of falsely telling police she was abducted last summer after stopping her car to check on a toddler wandering near a highway.

Carlee Russell’s two-day disappearance, and her story of being abducted, captivated the nation before police called her story a hoax.

Russell was scheduled for trial March 18, but a court document filed Thursday shows a plea hearing is now set for March 21. The document did not specify whether she will plead guilty.

Russell’s attorneys appealed her case to circuit court after a municipal judge, in an October ruling, found Russell guilty of misdemeanor charges of false reporting to law enforcement and falsely reporting an incident. The ruling came after Russell’s attorneys agreed to “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.

Russell disappeared July 13 after calling 911 to report a toddler beside a stretch of Interstate 459 in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover. She returned home two days later and told police she had been abducted and forced into a vehicle.

Police quickly cast doubt on Russell’s story. Her attorney issued a statement through police acknowledging there was no kidnapping and that she never saw a toddler. In the statement, Russell apologized to law enforcement and the volunteers who searched for her.

Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis previously said he was frustrated that Russell was only being charged with two misdemeanors despite the panic and disruption she caused. He said the law did not allow for enhanced charges.

Alabama legislators this year are considering a bill that would enhance penalties for falsely reporting crimes.

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Alabama woman set for a plea hearing months after police say she faked her own kidnapping