The search for missing 8-year-old Relisha Rudd continues as officials comb through the 700-acre Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens searching for signs of the girl, Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier told reporters this afternoon.
Lanier confirmed reports that police recovered a dead man’s body today at the park and that the man appears to have committed suicide. Police hope to identify the body today, and Lanier says officials are “obviously” looking into the fact that the body could be Kahlil Tatum‘s—-the man that Rudd was last seen with. (Update, 7:40 p.m. Police now say they believe the body is Tatum’s.)
“The search is still underway and there is still a lot of working to be done,” Lanier said. “Our primary focus is here is to find Relisha.”
Officials have been thoroughly searching the Northeast park since last Thursday. Lanier say there are more than 100 police officers, firefighters, and cadets searching the park step by step. Divers, underwater cameras, and aerial surveillance have also been used. She says she expects the search to continue for at least a couple of more days.
Tatum, who’s now on the FBI’s wanted list, works 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 the 700-acre park in Northeast D.C.
“We are not making any assumptions,” Lanier told reporters at a press conference last week, saying that police were still following other leads in the hopes that Relisha is still alive. “We cannot ignore the possibility that he may have killed her.”
Relisha’s mother often let Tatum spend time with her daughter, even allowing him to take her off of 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 rewards that lead to the return of Relisha and the arrest and indictment of Tatum.
Photo by Perry Stein