An Alabama woman who went missing after telling a 911 dispatcher that she saw a toddler walking alone on the side of an interstate has returned home, authorities said.
Carlethia “Carlee” Nichole Russell, 25, had been missing since Thursday night, when she called 911 and told a dispatcher that she saw the child on the side of Interstate 459 South. After the call, Russell stopped her vehicle to check on the toddler and called a family member who lost contact with her, though the line remained open, according to the Hoover Police Department.
When officers arrived at the scene, they found Russell’s vehicle and some of her belongings – including her wig, phone and purse – but no sign of her or the child, according to police.
At around 10:45 p.m. Saturday, the Hoover 911 center received a call that Russell had returned home on foot, Hoover police said in a Saturday afternoon news release.
Police officers and the fire department responded to the scene and transported Russell to a local hospital, where she was treated and released, according to police.
It’s unclear where Russell had been since Thursday and no further details were provided. Police said they were able to take “an initial statement” from Russell. “The details of that statement are a part of the ongoing investigation which is expected to continue over the next few days,” the release said.
Police said they are investigating traffic camera footage as part of the investigation. “That footage is still being analyzed as part of the investigation in conjunction with the 911 call to accurately determine the timeframe,” the release stated.
The police department is “very happy” that Russell has returned home safely, Hoover Police Chief Nicholas Derzis told CNN affiliate WBRC.
“We wanted her to come home safe and sound – and we’ll hope that’s what happened here,” he said. “And I couldn’t be more excited, and I hope the community feels the same way.”
“The first thing is to give Carlee and family a little time to get themselves back together,” he said, WRBC reported.
“I know it’s been a tough experience for them. When we think it’s time to sit down and have a conversation with Carlee and try to get some facts, we’ll do that.”
News of Russell’s disappearance sparked a frenzied 48-hour search effort across the area, with police offering a reward of $25,000.
Derzis said that at times up to 50 or 60 police officers were working on the case. “There are times you get overwhelmed, the story kept getting bigger and bigger,” he told WBRC.
Hoover police said that they are working to build a timeline of Russell’s actions in the hours before her disappearance. She left work at around 8:20 p.m. Thursday, then ordered food and traveled to pick it up. They were unable to find anyone who was with Russell from the time she left the restaurant to the time of the 911 call, according to the release.
Hoover, a prominent suburb of Birmingham, is located just south of the city.
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