Sen. April Weaver was joined by Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis, criminal investigators from the Hoover Police Department, members of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, and Rep. Mike Shaw during a State House news conference at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 1, as they outlined her legislation that would make faking an abduction a felony offense.
The legislation comes in response to the fraud carried out by Carlethia Nicole Russell, a 24-year-old Hoover woman who admitted to faking her own abduction and prompting an exhaustive three-day search for the imposter victim. Weaver’s bill includes strong prison sentences and mandatory restitution requirements for the full cost of resources expended by law enforcement agencies during a hoax abduction.
During the press conference, Weaver stated, “Like so many others around Alabama and the rest of the nation, I paused when news of the abduction and disappearance of Carlethia Russell was first reported, and I said a prayer for her safe return. The fact that such an incident could occur so close to home made an already disturbing event even more alarming. And just like so many others, I was outraged when it was discovered that the entire incident was an elaborately staged hoax that wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars and hundreds of human resource hours within the local, state, and federal law enforcement community.
Perhaps the biggest victims of Russell’s hoax were the dozens of volunteers who selflessly donated their time in record-breaking heat to search for her. My outrage was compounded when Russell was charged only with local misdemeanor violations because no adequate state felony statute punishing her actions was on the books.
While we cannot go back and undo the damage that was done, we can take solid and decisive steps to discourage similar hoax abductions from ever taking place again. That is why I am sponsoring legislation that imposes prison time and mandatory restitution requirements for the full cost of resources expended by law enforcement agencies during a hoax abduction.”
The 2024 Legislative Session will begin on Tuesday, February 6, 2024.