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Carlee Russell: Alabama woman avoids jail after faking her own kidnapping

An Alabama woman who faked her own kidnapping has been given a suspended sentence and a $18,000 (£14,000) fine.

Carlee Russell, 26, pleaded guilty to two counts of filing false reports. During a hearing Thursday she was also sentenced to a year of probation and 100 hours of community service.

She phoned police in July 2023 and said a toddler was wandering by the side of a busy highway.

Russell then went missing for two days and said she had been abducted.

She later admitted the entire story was a fabrication.

Police say that in the hours before she went missing, Russell took some small items and cash from her job at a spa and went shopping.

Then she phoned 911 and said she had spotted a child while driving on Interstate 459 in Hoover, a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama.

After the worried-sounding call, Russell disappeared. Two days later she turned up at her parents' house nearby, and was taken to a local hospital.

She told police that when she had stopped to check on the toddler, a man had emerged from the trees at the side of the interstate highway, blindfolded her and held her captive in a tractor trailer. She claimed she managed to escape by running through the woods to her home.

About 10 days later, she later admitted through an attorney that the whole story was false.

According to local news reports, prosecutors asked during Thursday's hearing that Russell be required to spend some time in jail, even if only on nights or weekends.

Alabama state prosecutor Clark Morris pointed out that hundreds of people had been looking for Russell and that she has yet to give a full accounting of her whereabouts during the time she was missing.

Russell apologised and told the court: "I am extremely remorseful for the panic, fear and various range of negative emotions that were experienced across the nation." She said she had "no malicious intent".

Nick Derzis, chief of Hoover police, told reporters he was disappointed with the outcome.

"There were a lot of people, not only in our community but across the nation, that were concerned for those couple of days," he said.

He estimated that his department spent around $40,000 to $50,000 on the investigation into the bogus kidnapping.