Police, volunteers continue search of DC park for missing Relish - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Police, volunteers continue search of DC park for missing Relisha Rudd

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D.C. police, dive teams, and community volunteers have been continuing their search at Kenilworth Park on Wednesday, but have not found anything that has led them any closer in finding 8-year old Relisha Rudd.

Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham said Wednesday afternoon that the search is expected to conclude by Thursday.

"We came up here based upon a theory, and the theory was based on the information that we had available, information that we could confirm at the time," said Newsham. "The theory was that potentially we would find Relisha in this area and that's why we're here ... We're really urging folks who think they might have information to pass that along to us and we'll follow up on it."

On Tuesday, authorities confirmed that the body found Monday in the park was positively identified as that of Kahlil Malik Tatum. Authorities suspected Tatum of abducting Relisha. Police began what Lanier has described as a very technical search of Kenilworth Park last week, utilizing cadaver dogs, search crews, divers and volunteers.

In a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Lanier said it appears Tatum's body was in the park for somewhere between 36 hours and several days-- adding that it's difficult to pin down an exact time. She said that while they were not shocked to find that Tatum had committed suicide, they were shocked to find his body in the park.

"The focus for us is really finding Relisha," said Chief Lanier.

Lanier said all possibilities remain open in the search for Relisha, and the investigation remains active.

"There is still a lot more information we have to follow through on."

An Amber Alert was issued for Relisha on March 20. According to D.C. Police Chief Cathy 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.

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.

Tatum's wife was found dead in a Maryland motel room on March 20. Earlier in the day, an FBI spokesperson confirmed that they were assisting other agencies in the search, and they're following up on all possible leads.

Tatum was the janitor in the homeless shelter where Rudd had been staying with her mother.

Tatum had already been 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 was charged with first-degree murder and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

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

D.C. officials also 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.

Relisha is described as a black girl, weighing about 70 to 80 pounds, with black hair, brown eyes and a medium complexion.

The FBI said a $25,000 reward still stands for information leading to the location of Relisha Rudd.

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

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