Relisha Rudd, an 8-year old girl from the Washington, D.C. area who went missing on March 1, is still the focus of an intense search after the body of her suspected kidnapper was found.
51-year old Kahlil Tatum was a janitor at the homeless shelter where Rudd was staying with her family and reportedly had permission to take her out of the shelter. He was the last person known to be with her before she disappeared, but his body was found in a local park with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Authorities say Tatum bought large trash bags the day after Rudd was last seen and frequented Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens around that time, so the search has been focused in that area for any clues as to Rudd’s whereabouts.
“On March 2, we know that Mr. Tatum purchased, among other items, a carton of black, 42-gallon, self-tie contractor trash bags within the District of Columbia,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said on Thursday. “Not long after that purchase, Mr. Tatum was in the area of the aquatic gardens for a period of time.”
The body of Tatum’s wife, Andrea, was found in a motel earlier this month, prompting authorities to charge him with murder. A motive hasn’t been released, but adding to the mystery surrounding Rudd’s disappearance is the fact that Tatum and Rudd’s mother were working together to fool the child’s school officials into believing she was missing school because she was sick. Tatum even posed as a doctor to speak with her teachers.
“He basically assured the school the child had been ill and gave some detailed information around that,” said Bebe Otero, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services.
Officials say they are still holding out hope that they will find Rudd alive, but say the search is more than likely now a “recovery” mission.