HOOVER, Ala. - The loved ones of Carlethia "Carlee" Nichole Russell, the 25-year-old Alabama woman who went missing after pulling over on the interstate to check on a child, say they're thanking God that she returned home safe.
Police say at around 10:45 p.m. Saturday, two days after her disappearance on Interstate 459, Russell showed up at the front door of the home in Hoover she shared with her parents.
"She walked up, banged on the door, and that was her," Hoover Police Chief Nicholas Derzis told FOX affiliate WBRC.
Russell was taken to a local hospital for evaluation and has since been released and is back with her family.
The Hoover Police Department says detectives have spoken to Russell and are continuing their investigation.
Carlee Russell (Hoover Police Department)
"The details of that statement are a part of the ongoing investigation which is expected to continue over the next few days," a spokesperson for the department said in a statement. "During the initial portion of the investigation, detectives were able to retrace nearly all of Carlee’s steps until the point she went missing and are confident that will continue to be the case."
While the mystery of her disappearance remains unsolved, her family just says they're grateful that she's home.
Writing on Facebook Sunday, Talitha Robinson-Russell said "God is faithful and He has answered our prayers."
"We are so grateful to each of you for all the acts of kindness, generosity, and compassion you have shown," she wrote. "Our baby is safe!"
While Robinson-Russell says she understands the attention to the case, she asked for privacy at this time.
"Please consider the fact we have not slept for 3 nights and we are mentally and physically exhausted," she wrote.
Russell's boyfriend Thomar Latrell Simmons also responded to the news on social media, saying, "Thank you to my lord & savior Jesus Christ for saving my girlfriend's life!"
"I have been going nonstop since I received the call that she was missing on Thursday night," he wrote. "I know she would’ve done the same for me, so I wasn’t going to give up until I saw her face again!"
Simmons also denied allegations that he had anything to do with Russell's disappearance, calling them false allegations and assumptions.
Carlee Russell's disappearance
The search began for Russell on Thursday night. That night, she called 911 and then spoke to a family member, saying that she saw a young child walking on the side of Interstate 459 South near Mile Market 11 in Hoover, Alabama.
Carlee's mother Talitha Russell said her daughter was on the phone with a family member when she pulled over to check on the child.
"My daughter-in-law could hear her ask if the child was OK, and the child didn't respond - at least she didn't hear her respond," Russell said. "Then she heard our daughter Carlee scream."
While the family lost contact with Carlee Russell, the line remained open.
When officers arrived at the location, they found Russell's red Mercedes still running by the interstate, but they were unable to find her or a child in the area.
"Her car door was open," Talitha Russell said. "They have found her wig and her hat, and her cell phone."
Investigators say no children had been reported missing in the area.
Police say a witness reported seeing a man standing beside Russell’s vehicle just before officers arrived at the scene.
"A single witness has reported possibly seeing a gray vehicle with a light-complexioned male standing outside Carlee's vehicle," Hoover Police Lt. Daniel Lowe said at a press conference.
Investigators are now working to retrace Carlee's actions from when she disappeared to see if they can determine where she was in that 48-hour period.
Who is Carlee Russell?
Investigators believe Russell got off work around 8:20 p.m. from a business at The Summit in Birmingham, picked up food and then drove towards Hoover, where she lives with her parents.
The day she disappeared, Russell went to Harpersville, where officials say she briefly interacted with members of the city's police department.
"We were honored to spend time with this smart, courteous and honoring young woman yesterday. She was handling some business in the Town of Harpersville yesterday and we were so impressed by her respect, poise, good attitude and her drive to become a nursing student and help others," the Harpersville Police Department wrote on Facebook. "When this news broke, so did our hearts. This world needs many, many more young women and young men like her."
AL.com reports that Russell is a student at Jefferson State Community College and is studying to be a registered nurse.
Jefferson State wrote on Facebook that it was "praying for her safe return" and that they were "extremely concerned" for her safety.
After news of her disappearance spread, a private donor came forward to offer a $25,000 reward, in addition to the $5,000 being offered by Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama. That reward eventually increased to $55.,000
This story is being reported out of Atlanta.