Lanier: ‘Cannot Ignore Possibility’ Missing 8-Year-Old Is Dead
A man being sought in the disappearance of 8-year-old Relisha Rudd bought contractor-sized trash bags and spent considerable time in Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in northeast D.C. after the last time anyone saw the girl, D.C.’s police chief said Thursday.
Cathy Lanier said police are still actively searching for any sign of Relisha and for Kahlil Tatum, the 51-year-old janitor she was believed to be with.
But, Lanier added, “We cannot ignore the possibility that he may have killed her.”
Lanier said she remains hopeful the girl is alive, and that police are still actively searching for her, including a grid search of the park. But, “given the circumstances right now, we are fearful of leaving any stones unturned,” Lanier said.
Rudd and Tatum had been together for some time, with the knowledge of Rudd’s mother. Surveillance video had captured Rudd and Tatum in a D.C. hotel on Feb. 26, Lanier said.
The last time Rudd was seen was March 1. She was in the presence of Tatum. Lanier not say where the two were seen, only that it was “in the District of Columbia.”
On March 2, Tatum bought the contractor bags and spent considerable time in the park, Lanier said.
FBI agents, D.C. police officers and cadets had descended on the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and Kenilworth-Parkside Community Center and Park Thursday morning in search of evidence.
Investigators say the search could take days or weeks as the park is expansive. The park runs along the Anacostia River and much of it is wooded, News4’s Megan McGrath reported.
The search comes a day after authorities extended their investigation into Relisha’s disappearance into Atlanta, Ga. The man believed to be with her may have connections to the area, according to the FBI.
An Amber Alert for Relisha was issued March 20. Police say she was last seen Feb. 26 at a homeless shelter in southeast D.C., and she may be with Tatum — who worked as a janitor at the shelter.
Tatum was added to FBI’s Wanted List Wednesday — he is said to be armed and dangerous.
Investigators say Tatum posed as a doctor March 10, telling city officials who were concerned for her safety Relisha was sick with a neurological disorder, and undergoing treatment. When they asked for documents, “Dr. Tatum” said he would leave them behind at the shelter where Relisha and her mother lived.
When officials came to the shelter March 19 to pick up the paperwork, they couldn’t find “Dr. Tatum” or Relisha. Shortly after, a missing persons report with D.C. Police was filed.
Tatum is wanted on unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, and murder charges in connection with his wife’s shooting death. Andrea Tatum’s body was found at an Oxon Hill Red Roof Inn last Thursday during the search for Relisha.
Patrick Kelly believes his cousin was killed because she knew Tatum was with the missing girl.
“[Andrea] was a beautiful person and she didnt deserve what she got,” Kelly said. “He’s a wolf walking out here amongst us. He’s a demon. She lost her life by standing up for what she believed in.”
Relisha’s mother told News4 she, and her daughter, had a trusting friendship with Tatum. Investigators say Relisha’s mother gave her daughter to Tatum Feb. 26. The two are seen on surveillance footage walking down a Holiday Inn Express hallway that evening on Bladensburg Road NE.
But Relisha may look very different now, said Derrica Wilson of the Black and Missing Foundation.
“He may have cut her hair, tried to make her look like a little boy,” Wilson, a former police officer, told News4. “Time is critical…. Notification must be made as soon as possible,” Wilson said.
A $70,000 reward is being offered by the FBI and Prince George’s County Police for information leading to Relisha and Tatum. Call 911 if you have seen either of them.