The case of an Alabama woman who vanished after calling 911 to report a child walking along an interstate captivated the nation this week and put a spotlight on the issue of missing Black women and girls in the United States.
Carlee Russell’s disappearance has raised concern about what it could mean for the over 500,000 people who go missing every year.
“I don’t want it to affect anybody else who ends up in this situation where they can’t get help,” said Derrica Wilson. “We can’t allow this one case to diminish or lessen the importance of the hundreds and thousands of people who are missing.
Wilson, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, said 40% of missing people are persons of color.
When Russell first disappeared, the foundation was flooded with calls to help in the search, and now her hope is that Russell’s story brings more attention to the families that still need help.
“Regardless of race, regardless of gender, and regardless of zip code, these families need help and all of these cases deserve the same approach,” Wilson said.
Police aren’t aware of any previous mental health issues for Russell, and there is no report of drugs or alcohol in her system when she returned.
Police shared evidence disputing her abduction, including cellphone searches about the movie “Taken” and if you have to pay for an Amber Alert.
Russell’s disappearance prompted a multi-state search involving law enforcement, friends, family and strangers. Now, police are casting doubt on her claim that she was kidnapped. Authorities have gone so far as to say they have no evidence that the child Russell called 911 about actually exists.
Police say they have tried speaking further with Russell. Her parents declined that request, saying that she is still too traumatized and not ready to talk.
Police in Hoover are still investigating what happened in those 49 hours that Russell went missing.