As Alabama authorities discuss how to assess expenses incurred by law enforcement after Carlee Russell alarmed millions of people with a fake kidnapping claim, they have announced how she will be penalized so far.
Hoover police officials announced Friday that Russell was arrested and charged with false reporting to law enforcement authorities and falsely reporting an incident, misdemeanor charges that carry a maximum punishment of one year in jail. She was released on bond.
Meanwhile, in other states, young people are already copycatting her crime, sparking a conversation about if these cases will impact what some activists are characterizing as the tragic epidemic of Black women being abducted or trafficked.
The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office is considering “possible criminal charges related to” Russell’s case.
The 25-year-old told her family and a 911 dispatcher that she was kidnapped on July 13 on the highway after getting out of her car to check on a toddler.
In a statement made public via her attorney, she said there “was no kidnapping,” and she acted alone in creating the fake story about her 49-hour disappearance.
Incidentally, an 11-year-old Florida girl was arrested for texting authorities that her friend was kidnapped by an armed man in a white van, the Washington Times reports.
She told the officers she was following the suspect in a blue Jeep, giving them moment-by-moment location updates regarding this imaginary chase.
“Multiple deputies responded, along with Edgewater, New Smyrna Beach and Port Orange police and Air One, to search for the suspect vehicle, but no van was found,” a representative from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said.
The sheriff’s office charged the preteen on July 26 with a felony of making a false police report concerning the use of a firearm in a violent manner and a misdemeanor of misuse of 911.
While Russell and the middle school prankster were not telling the truth, activists say there are thousands of Black people who go missing every year. These advocates say cases like Russell’s are rare, noting it is also rare that so much attention is placed on finding a person of African descent, according to CNN.
Based on the 2021 FBI data, Black people account for 31 percent of missing person reports, despite comprising only 14 percent of the total U.S. population. In contrast, the same study revealed whites constituted 54 percent of the missing person reports, despite making up 76 percent of the overall US population.
Derrica Wilson, the co-founder of the Black & Missing Foundation, told CNN this week that currently her organization is looking at close to 6,000 cases of missing Black people in its database and most of those cases have gone unsolved.
Wilson stresses that Russell’s case is an “anomaly.”
“For our community, we can’t lose sight of the bigger picture. We are disappointed that there are inconsistencies with her (Russell’s) story especially when there are a staggering number of people of color who are still missing and they need our help,” Wilson said, noting that there was a 3-year-old named Samalea Monet Daniels in Virginia Beach, Virginia, actually missing since a day after the former spa worker’s escapade. The child is suspected to have been abducted by a non-custodial parent.
She added her organization wants “people to continue making these cases viral.”
“We can’t allow this case to diminish our efforts that we have worked so hard for,” Wilson added.
Such is the case with a North Carolina woman named Allisha Dene Watts.
The 39-year-old has been missing since July 16, and her family and friends want answers from the Charlotte Police Department.
“We’re here for answers today because we want to know how we can help find our friend, our sister, our daughter,” Watts’ friend Learen Blue said to CNN.
Detectives say they are doing their best and are following all leads that they receive. They are also asking for the support of the community asking the public to contact police or Charlotte Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.