Kahlil Tatum, the man authorities are seeking in connection with the disappearance of 8-year-old Relisha Rudd, could have killed her, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier said Thursday afternoon.
Officials are now searching the sprawling Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, off Anacostia Avenue NE, for any signs of the missing girl.
The last sighting of Relisha was March 1, Lanier said. (It was previously reported that she was last seen at school on March 7, but authorities wouldn’t comment today on the discrepancy.) On March 2, Tatum purchased large trash bags and soon after that he was spotted at the park, Lanier said.
Officials would not elaborate on who saw Tatum and what he was doing.
“We are not making any assumptions,” Lanier told reporters at a press conference at the park. “We cannot ignore the possibility that he may have killed her.”
Tatum works as a janitor at the homeless shelter where Relisha was living with her family. Her mother 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.
There had been sightings of Tatum as recently as last Thursday, but never with Relisha. That was also the day 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 $25,000 reward for any information that leads to the return of Relisha, and the Prince George’s County Police is offering another $25,000 for information that leads to the arrest and indictment of Tatum.
If you have any information that could be helpful, call 911 or (202) 727-9099.
Here’s where the search is concentrating:
Photo by Perry Stein