DC Police Not Giving Up Search for Relisha Rudd, Missing 5 Years

Five years after Relisha Rudd was last seen, D.C. police said they've never given up their attempt to find her.

The girl, then 8 years old, was last seen in surveillance footage at a motel March 1, 2014, with Kahlil Tatum, a janitor at the D.C. General homeless shelter where Relisha lived. The little girl's family had allowed her to spend time with him.

She appeared to have been missing for weeks before officials realized she was gone. Relisha had not been seen at Payne Elementary School since the month before her disappearance.

Investigators said that on March 10, 2014, Tatum posed as a doctor, telling city officials who were concerned for Relisha's safety that she was sick with a neurological disorder and was undergoing treatment. When they asked for documents, "Dr. Tatum" said he would leave them at the shelter where Relisha lived with her mother and siblings.

When officials went to the shelter nine days later to pick up the paperwork, they couldn't find "Dr. Tatum" or Relisha. Shortly after, a missing persons report was filed with D.C. police.

Police say Tatum purchased a shovel, lime and contractor-sized trashbags and that he spent a significant amount of time at Kenilworth Park at about the time when Relisha was last seen. Authorities have looked into the possibility that Tatum killed her and buried her body in the park.

After Relisha was reported missing, the body of Tatum's wife was found in a motel, and Tatum, 51, was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Kenilworth Park.

No one has been charged in Relisha's disappearance. Police and volunteers have searched repeatedly for evidence of the child. In January 2018, crews looked for evidence along the Anacostia River. The closed shelter is located near the river, the D.C. jail and RFK Stadium.

In December, investigators spent days searching service tunnels beneath D.C. General.

In the months following her disappearance, D.C. officials analyzed how they handled her case. Their report determined that the District could not have prevented the little girl's disappearance, citing, in part, the misleading information provided by Relisha's family.

However, the report did suggest more than two dozen policy changes on matters including how schools deal with unexcused absences, background checks for homeless shelter employees and fraternization between families and shelter staff.

CORRECTION (Oct. 29, 2019, 1:40 p.m.): This story previously had transposed two letters in Kahlil Tatum's name. It has been updated with the correct spelling.

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