Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama has issued a statement saying that if a determination is made that an award in the Carlee Russell case is not valid, it will return donations made to help find the 25-year-old Alabama woman.
Russell said she was kidnapped after she stopped to check on a toddler she saw walking on the side of an interstate on July 13. She returned home two days later, officials said.
Crime Stoppers initially said it would return the $63,000 in donations it collected to help find Russell, according to AL.com, but then backtracked, saying it would wait until the end of the investigation to decide what to do with the funds.
According to a post on Facebook, the organization said it would be contacting donors as soon as the investigation is completed.
“Thank you for your donation to the (Carlee) (sic) Russell Reward Fund. As soon as the investigation is completed by law enforcement, and if a determination is made that a reward is not validated, we will be contacting each donor to refund the monies donated for this specific reward. If you decide not to accept the refund the donation will be used for future cases. Thank you for your kindness and compassion and supporting the mission of Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama.”
Russell called police on the evening of July 13, saying that she saw the child, clad in a diaper, on the side of Interstate 459 in Hoover, Alabama, near Birmingham.
She said that she got out of her vehicle to help the child and was grabbed by a man and dragged to a truck. She said she was then held captive but broke away from her captors and walked back home two days after the alleged abduction.
Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama said that Hoover police have not asked that donations be “released or returned.”
“This investigation is still ongoing, and accordingly, there is no basis to refund any contributions at this time,” the group said in a statement last week.
“Furthermore, the Hoover Police Department has not requested for any donor contributions to be released or refunded,” the statement went on to say.
Bob Copus, the local organization’s executive director, told AL.com last week that some of the donations had already been returned after Russell reappeared. A $25,000 donated by the Birmingham Board of Realtors and a $20,000 donation offered by an anonymous donor were returned, according to AL.com.
Alabama law enforcement authorities held a press conference last Wednesday saying Russell had searched online for information about “Taken,” a movie about an abduction, along with phrases such as “Do you have to pay for an Amber Alert;” and “One-way bus ticket to Birmingham bus station to Nashville” with a departure date of July 13, the date she disappeared.
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