The search for missing 8-year-old Relisha Rudd at the 700-acre Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Northeast D.C. could be complete as early as tomorrow, Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said at a press conference today at the park.
Police have been searching the sprawling park since last Thursday because Lanier said there was evidence that made officials “strongly believe” they would find Relisha’s body there. Yesterday, police found the dead body of Kahlil Tatum—-the man last seen with Relisha—-at the park. Lanier confirmed today that it appears he committed suicide and that he has been dead anywhere from 36 hours to several days.
Investigators did not find any evidence on Tatum’s body to suggest where Relisha may be.
“We were not shocked to find Tatum, but we didn’t come here looking for him,” she says.
Officials will continue combing through the park tomorrow, and possibly Thursday morning, looking for Relisha. Additional volunteers and community groups will be brought in to join the search. They have also been searching vacant homes in the area.
“We believe we can finish the search tomorrow,” Lanier says. “We’re hoping we covered all the grounds and most of the grounds more than once.”
Once the park search is complete, the police chief says the search for Relisha will go on.
“Yes, she could still be alive,” she says. “We don’t have any information that she’s been killed.”
Tatum worked as a janitor at the homeless shelter where Relisha lives with her mother. Relisha was last seen on March 1 with Tatum, Lanier said Thursday. On March 2, police say, Tatum purchased large trash bags and was soon after spotted at Kenilworth.
Relisha’s mother often let Tatum spend time with her daughter, even allowing him to take her off the shelter’s site. Authorities have said officials at Daniel A. Payne Elementary School were told that Relisha was in the care of a “Dr. Tatum” when she’d been absent.
On March 20, the dead body of Tatum’s wife was found in a hotel room in Oxon Hill during the search for Relisha. Officials issued an Amber Alert for Relisha that same day in D.C., but officials in Maryland and Virginia say they were not initially contacted by District officials to issue the alert in their states.
The FBI is offering a reward for tips that lead to the return of Relisha.
Photo via FBI