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‘They’re counting on all of us’: The impact of the Carlee Russell hoax on other missing person cases

Lisa Crane
July 26, 2023

Most of the details in the Carlee Russell case are now out in the open.

On Monday, her attorney admitted Russell lied about seeing a child on the interstate and about being kidnapped. The hoax is raising concerns from some groups about what could happen the next time a black woman disappears.

The question: Will they receive as much coverage as Carlee Russell did?

The founder of the Black and Missing Foundation says she is disheartened, but this one case is not indicative of the tens of thousands of active missing person cases involving people of color in this country.

The Carlee Russell case went viral within hours of her disappearance.

Carlos Russell, Carlee’s dad, said within the first several hours, “We really want this to blow up. We want the word of the day to be Carlee. We just really want to have her back home safe.”

Derrica Wilson, with the Black and Missing Foundation, says no matter the circumstances of her disappearance, Carlee’s parents’ prayers were answered. She says the way the community, law enforcement and the media reacted, and the speed that it happened, was exactly what should have happened.

“At the onset of this case, it seemed credible. And as a former law enforcement and investigator and official, you want to follow up on these cases,” Wilson said. “And again, they’ve done an incredible job of coming through with the investigative process. Sadly, this is the outcome.”

She says Carlee’s case is in no way typical and shouldn’t detract from the real missing person cases that go unsolved every year.

“In 2022, over 500,000 people were reported missing in the United States, and nearly half of that are persons of color,” Willson said. “And of that number, over 90,000 were black women. So, the numbers are alarming. Again, 40% of missing persons in the United States are persons of color.”

Wilson says hopefully, the bright light shining on the Carlee Russell case will also illuminate the need to focus on all missing person cases.

“We just want our community to not lose hope. Don’t lose faith on these families. They’re counting on all of us to help bring their missing home,” Wilson said.

Photo credit: WVTM 13

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