Search for missing Relisha Rudd continues in NE DC park - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Search for missing Relisha Rudd continues in NE DC park

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The search for Relisha Rudd continues at a northeast D.C. park.  Over the weekend, police and fire department dive teams searched for evidence at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, but found no sign of the missing 8-year-old girl. 

On Friday night, a nearby Days Inn Motel on New York Avenue was searched, and an employee confirmed that the suspect in the case, Kahlil Tatum, had stayed there.  The employee did not disclose the date of his stay.  Residents there confirmed that police were asking about Tatum and the missing girl.

Fort Dupont Park, which is about two miles away from Kenilworth Park, has also been the scene of extensive ground searches in recent days. 

Relisha Rudd was last seen on March 1.  Police say in late February, her mother allowed her to be taken care of by Tatum, 51, who was a custodian at the homeless shelter where her family was staying.  Police have said they believe Tatum abducted her.

The day after Relisha was last seen, police say Tatum bought a container of heavy-duty trash bags, and was in Kenilworth Park for a period of time.

Technical search in Kenilworth Park
In an update on Friday, Chief Lanier said authorities from multiple agencies continued to search the 700-acre park, which includes many small bodies of water, for evidence.  She explained that the search is very technical in nature, and about 100 people including divers, MPD recruits, D.C. Fire & EMS recruits, Montgomery County Police specialists, the FBI, and U.S. Park Police are assisting, searching for about 16 hours a day.  She said this part of the search would last through the weekend, and emphasized that it is very, very technical.

Lanier said many requests have been received from members of the community who would like to help.  She said it's likely that D.C. police may reach out sometime this week and organize searches that utilize the help offered by those community members.

While they continued to search the park, Lanier said they were not only focused there.  She said authorities were still following every tip and lead that comes in about Relisha and the search for Kahlil Tatum.

"We are investigating this for one reason and one reason only, and that is to find Relisha," said Lanier.

Chief: Tatum had contact with other girls
Chief Lanier said authorities are positive that Tatum had contact with other girls at the same homeless shelter where Relisha and her family live.  Lanier said they're currently in contact with three to four other families and that the nature of those contacts is under investigation, but she did not release any additional specifics.

Lanier said they are concerned about the contact Tatum had with the other girls-- especially because he is now wanted for the murder of his wife.

Chief Lanier said the search for Tatum is very aggressive, adding, "This would be a lot easier for everyone if Mr. Tatum would just turn himself in."

Lanier: New timeline is accurate
Lanier also said they are very confident in the new timeline they released last Thursday, and that it's common to have confusion about events that happened two to three weeks ago.

Lanier said the search and information that they learn is discouraging at times, but they try to remain hopeful.

"We are very hopeful that we will still find her alive," she said.

Search for Relisha
An Amber Alert was issued for Relisha the week before last. According to Lanier, Relisha was last seen on March 1 in the District with Kahlil Tatum, the man police believe abducted her. Lanier said that is the last time they can confirm that Relisha was seen alive, and at that time, she was with Tatum with permission from her mother.

On March 2, Lanier said Tatum, 51, purchased a carton of 43-gallon self-tying black trash bags, and later was in the area of the aquatic gardens in Kenilworth Park for a period of time. After that, Lanier said Tatum was going to work and was seen in D.C. through March 20, but Relisha was not seen.

During a news conference last Thursday afternoon, Lanier said based on this information, the search for Relisha in the park is a recovery operation, but they're still following up on other tips. Lanier said they're not ruling anything out until she is found.

"We have not given up hope that we may still find Relisha alive," Lanier said.

After Tatum's wife was found dead in a Maryland motel room on March 20, there have been no confirmed sightings of him.

Tatum was the janitor in the homeless shelter where Rudd had been staying with her mother.  The search area is about four miles from the shelter.

Tatum is already charged with killing his wife, 51-year-old Andrea Tatum, whose body was found in a motel room in Oxon Hill, Md. Officers found her body while they were searching for Relisha. A warrant was issued for his arrest, and he is charged with first-degree murder and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Documents: Tatum's wife told daughter she was thinking of leaving him
Prince George’s County authorities released the arrest warrant and charging documents against Kahlil Tatum on Friday.  The documents say that while searching for Relisha on March 20, authorities found Tatum’s vehicle at the Red Roof Inn, where his wife’s body was found.  When Andrea Tatum was found, she was lying face down with a gunshot wound to the head.  Her death was ruled a homicide the next day.

According to the documents, Andrea Tatum had checked into the motel around 10 p.m. on March 19 and she was in the company of her husband and three others.  All of those people were captured on surveillance video, and they were all seen in the area of room #132.  Over an hour later, the three others left, and they later told police that Tatum and his wife were the only people left in the room as of about 11:30 p.m.

At approximately 5:40 a.m., one of the witnesses returned to the motel to pick up Tatum.  When the witness arrived, he knocked on the room door, and Tatum answered.  The witness told police he saw Andrea Tatum lying face down on the bed—the same way she was found by officers.   The witness did not see anyone else in the room, but Tatum wouldn’t let him inside.  Tatum and the witness left, and he eventually dropped Tatum off at the Southern Avenue Metro Station in Suitland.

According to the documents, investigators found that the room had been accessed by an electronic key card given to the Tatums and the witnesses when they arrived at 10:13 p.m. as they first entered the room.  The door wasn’t opened with a scan card until 8:58 a.m. the next morning, when police came in and found Andrea Tatum.

The documents also say Andrea Tatum’s daughter told investigators her mother had been having problems with Kahlil Tatum, and that she was thinking of leaving him.

Kahlil Tatum has not been seen since he was dropped off at the metro station.

Search for Tatum continues
Tatum was added to the FBI's Most Wanted List last Wednesday. The FBI also released video to the public last Tuesday showing Tatum and Relisha walking down the hallway of a northeast D.C. hotel on February 26.

In Atlanta, digital billboards were flashing descriptions of Tatum, who is believed to have ties to that area.

Also last Wednesday, D.C. officials announced that Tatum had posed as Relisha's doctor, taking calls from her elementary school teacher and telling them the little girl was sick. Officials familiar with the investigation say Rudd's mother, grandmother and Tatum were all working together in an effort to fool teachers and administrators at Payne Elementary School into believing the 8-year-old was not coming to school because she was sick.

“He basically assured the school the child had been ill and gave some detailed information around that,” said Bebe Otero, the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services.

Administration officials not authorized to speak on the record said Rudd’s grandmother and mother gave Tatum's phone number to the school claiming he was the girl’s doctor.

A total reward of $70,000 is currently being offered for information leading to Tatum's arrest and conviction, and for locating Relisha. The FBI offered a reward of up to $25,000 for Relisha's location and return, and a separate reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to Tatum's arrest. The Prince George's County Police Department has also offered a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to Tatum's arrest and indictment.

Tatum is described as a black man, 5'7" tall and weighing about 170 pounds.  He has a distinctive tattoo on his left upper arm.   Relisha is described as a black girl, weighing about 70 to 80 pounds, with black hair, brown eyes and a medium complexion.

If you see Tatum or Relisha, call 911 immediately.  You can also contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

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