An Alabama woman whose brief disappearance this month drew national attention and prompted sprawling search efforts across the state said through a lawyer on Monday that she had faked the entire ordeal — including her abduction and her claim of seeing a toddler on the side of a road.
The woman, Carlee Russell, 25, said through her lawyer, Emory Anthony, that she had not been kidnapped on July 13 in Hoover, Ala., and that she had not seen a baby on the side of an interstate that night — a detail that she had shared with a 911 dispatcher before being reported missing.
“We ask for your prayers for Carlee as she addresses her issues and attempts to move forward understanding that she made a mistake in this matter,” Mr. Anthony said in a letter that was read by the chief of the Hoover Police Department at a news conference on Monday. “Carlee again asks for your forgiveness.”
Mr. Anthony said in the letter that Ms. Russell had not received any help with her hoax and that she had not been at a hotel with anyone from the time she disappeared.
Mr. Anthony said by phone that he would meet with officials on Tuesday morning to discuss possible charges that Ms. Russell could face for fabricating her kidnapping, but he declined to answer questions or explain his client’s motivations for lying.
The police chief, Nicholas Derzis, said at the news conference that the police were in discussions with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office about possible charges in the case. The district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.
When reached by phone, Talitha Russell, Carlee Russell’s mother, said that “now is not a good time” and hung up. She did not immediately respond to questions by text.
The admission from Ms. Russell capped a puzzling case that had been shrouded in mystery from the moment she told a story about a child walking on the side of a heavily traversed road at night — an image that elicited skepticism from investigators, who wondered how no one else on the road had seen such an odd sight.
When Ms. Russell called 911, she told the dispatcher that she would pull over to help the toddler. She then called a family member to report the same details, and that person heard Ms. Russell scream on the phone. That was the last time anyone heard from Ms. Russell until about two days later, when she showed up at her family’s front door on foot, stunning relatives and officials.
Upon her return, Ms. Russell told investigators that she had been forced into a car and then into an eighteen-wheeler before she escaped, only to be abducted again and put in a car, the police said. Ms. Russell said she was then held in a house and put in another car before she escaped and ran home through the woods.
But on Wednesday, Chief Derzis said at a news conference that the police had not found any evidence to substantiate Ms. Russell’s claim of having been abducted, and shared details that appeared to hint at what had actually occurred.
The department’s investigation found that Ms. Russell had searched online for information about Amber Alerts and the movie “Taken,” which is about a kidnapping, before she called 911 to report her sighting of the toddler.
Chief Derzis said on Monday that investigators still wanted to meet with Ms. Russell to piece together a timeline and fully understand her reasons for the hoax.
In a phone interview, the chief said that the police did not yet know exactly how much money was spent during the search efforts, but that he expected it to reach tens of thousands of dollars.
He declined to say what possible charges Ms. Russell could face. In Alabama, it is a misdemeanor to knowingly make a false report to law enforcement.