The amber alert for 8-year-old Relisha Tenau Rudd increased in urgency after D.C. police have located vehicles related to the search.
Upon finding the body of a woman connected to the case at an Oxon Hill motel room, authorities issued a regional alert. It was reported that Andrea Denise Tatum's death was a homicide and it was learned she was the wife of 51-year-old Kahlil Malik Tatum - a janitor who worked for the homeless shelter at which Relisha and her mother have been staying.
Tatum had previously been caring for Relisha at the allowance of her mother, Shamika Young, who says she has known him for years.
"I didn’t see anything wrong with him. He’s a good guy," Young explained. She added: "When [Relisha] did go out with him, he brought her back. He would take her shopping, took her to see Disney on Ice, he bought her a tablet for Christmas, took her out to eat with his granddaughter."
“This Mr. Tatum was a friend of the family,” said Belinda Wheeler, Relisha’s paternal grandmother, “He was trying to be Relisha’s godfather.” She added that he brought her “a lot of gifts” but claimed he did not know the family prior to their residing at the shelter.
Other family accounts shared by the police have said the mother asked Tatum to care for Relisha on Feb. 26., but Belinda Wheeler did not say where Relisha had been staying since she left with the janitor on that date.
— NBCWashington (@nbcwashington) March 22, 2014
Since that date, Relisha had a string of absences from the elementary school she attended. The official reported receiving varying reasons from Shamika, including that she was staying with her grandmother.
Some police officials have stated that Relisha’s mother had not considered her child missing and spoke to her by phone as recently as a few days ago. An updated, recorded plea was broadcasted from Shamika requesting the return of Relisha.
"Bring my daughter back to me right now, please," Young stated on broadcast news, "It’s crazy. I want to know what’s going on."
Tatum is now wanted for the murder of his wife.
“Relisha is a sweet, quiet girl,” said Jamila Larson, executive director of the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project. She explained that staff and volunteers took leave of work to put up fliers and aid in the search efforts. She added:
“Everyone just feels desperate to do something to help.”
Relisha is described as being 4 feet tall, weighing 70 to 80 pounds, and may have her hair in braids and barrettes. As it has been weeks since she was last seen by any family members close to her, police cannot offer a description of what she is wearing.
If you have any information on Relisha, please contact: 202-727-9099
Anyone with information regarding the deceased should contact 1-866-411-TIPS
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