$63K raised in Carlee Russell search will not be refunded

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"Carlee" Nichole Russell, 25, vanished after telling a family member that she was stopping to check on a child she saw walking on the side of an interstate highway. (Hoover Police)

The more than $60,000 donated to Crime Stoppers in the search and safe return of Carlee Russell will not be refunded.

Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama reversed course on Monday after the organization said it would give back the $63,378 donated during the search for Russell, according to AL.com

​"This investigation is still ongoing, and accordingly, there is no basis to refund any contributions at this time. Furthermore, the Hoover Police Department has not requested for any donor contributions to be released or refunded," said the group, which collects anonymous tips about crime.

Bob Copus, executive director of Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama, said last week that some of those donations had already been returned.

On Monday afternoon, the Hoover Police Department held a press conference stating Russell made up the story of her disappearance.

Carlee Russell's disappearance

The search for Russell began the night of July 13. That night, she called 911 and then spoke to a family member, saying that she saw a young child walking on the side of Interstate 459 South near Mile Market 11 in Hoover.  

Carlee's mother said her daughter was on the phone with a family member when she pulled over to check on the child.  

While the family lost contact with Carlee Russell, the line remained open.


When officers arrived at the location, they found Russell's red Mercedes still running by the interstate, but they were unable to find her or a child in the area.

Investigators say no children had been reported missing in the area.

Police say a witness reported seeing a man standing beside Russell’s vehicle just before officers arrived at the scene.

After news of her disappearance spread, a private donor came forward to offer a $25,000 reward, in addition to the $5,000 being offered by Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama. That reward eventually increased to $55.,000 and then to over $63,000 with the support of around 60 other donors, the New York Post reported

When was Carlee Russell found?

On July 15, two days after her disappearance on Interstate 459, Russell showed up at the front door of the home in Hoover she shared with her parents.

She was taken to a local hospital for evaluation and has since been released back to her family.

Latest on the investigation

Last Wednesday, the Hoover Police Department held a news conference to address questions about the case and give an update on their findings.

Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said detectives were still investigating where Russell was and what happened to her between the time she went missing and her return home. But he also said investigators have been "unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statement."

Authorities say they don't believe there is any threat to the public.

Carlee Russell made abduction-related internet searches, police say

In the days before her disappearance, authorities said she searched for information on her cellphone about Amber Alerts, a movie about a woman’s abduction and a one-way bus ticket from Birmingham to Nashville, Tennessee. 

Her phone also showed she traveled about 600 yards while telling a 911 operator she was following a 3- or 4-year-old child in a diaper on the side of the highway, Derzis said.


Prior to her disappearance, Russell allegedly took a robe and toilet paper from her job.

Speaking with the TODAY show, Russell's parents stated they believe their daughter was "absolutely" abducted.

This story was reported on from Atlanta.