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Lawmaker wants to make faking an abduction a felony

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Sen. April Weaver, R-Brierfield, said Monday she will introduce legislation next year to make it a felony to fake an abduction.

The proposal is in response to the supposed kidnapping of 25-year-old Carlee Russell, who later confessed the incident was a hoax.

A resident of Hoover, Russell’s disappearance made international headlines. On July 13, Russell called both 911 and a family member to say she saw a small child walking along I-459. While still on the phone with the family member, Russell was heard screaming, and later disappeared, her vehicle and phone still on the interstate.

Traffic cam footage shows the moment Carlee Russell stopped on I-459.

A two-day search ensued consisting of both law enforcement and community members, only for Russell to return to her parents’ home on July 15. While she would go on to tell police she had been abducted and forced into a vehicle, she would eventually admit to fabricating the story.

Russell is charged with two misdemeanors; false reporting to law enforcement and falsely reporting an incident, both charges carrying a penalty of up to a year in jail. Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said he was “frustrated” that Russell could only be charged with misdemeanors, but that existing law didn’t allow for any higher criminal charges.

Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, and Leigh Hulsey, R-Helena, recently told WBRC they are exploring legislative options to stiffen criminal penalties and discourage future actions like Russell’s.

“You had a huge amount of resources vitalized that are taxpayer resources across multiple agencies searching for someone who was never in danger,” Hulsey told the station. “And that is a problem.”

Weaver, whose District 14 includes parts of Hoover, said that her bill would include “strong prison sentences” for those determined to have faked an abduction, as well as mandatory restitution for all costs related to resources expended by law enforcement agencies.

“This fictitious kidnapping caused fear and shock not only throughout the legislative district I represent, but also throughout our state and nation,” Weaver said.

“Individuals who concoct and carry out sham kidnappings and lead our law enforcement officers on wild goose chases must be given severe penalties for their deceptive actions.”

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