Police: Man Sought in Girl's Disappearance Had Contact With Other Girls

Man being sought in Relisha Rudd's disappearance had bought large trash bags, spent time in D.C. park

The man sought in the disappearance of an 8-year-old girl had contact with other young girls at the homeless shelter where he worked, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said Friday.

Lanier said it's not known whether Kahlil Tatum's interactions with those girls were sexual in nature, and officers are in contact with their families. 

"We don't have enough information right now to know that. We do know that he had contact with those girls," Lanier said.

More than 100 law enforcement agents continued their search of Kenilworth Park in northeast D.C. Friday after police revealed Tatum purchased contractor-sized trash bags and spent considerable time in the park after Relisha Rudd disappeared.

Lanier said in the next week, the department will reach out to community groups to help with some portions of the search.

Officers are preparing for the worst-case scenario, Lanier said.

"We cannot ignore the possibility that [Tatum] may have killed her," Lanier said. "Given the circumstances right now, we are fearful of leaving any stones unturned."

Though Lanier said she remains hopeful Relisha will be found alive, she also said the search had turned into a "recovery" mission.

The news sheds a new and heartbreaking light on the search for Relisha. Police say the last confirmed sighting of the girl was March 1 at a D.C. motel; Relisha was officially reported missing March 19 and an Amber Alert was issued the next day.

Police said she had been in the company of Tatum, 51, who worked as a janitor at the homeless shelter where Relisha and her family stayed. Five cell phones, a photo of Relisha, children's clothing and $87 in cash was found during a search of his southeast D.C. apartment.

Police also said Relisha's mother knew she was with Tatum; the mother did not report the girl as missing. Surveillance video had captured Tatum and Relisha in a D.C. hotel on Feb. 26.

On March 1, Relisha was seen with Tatum, Lanier said. She did not say where the two were seen, only that it was "in the District of Columbia." Police have not confirmed any later sightings of Relisha.

The next day, Tatum bought contractor-sized trash bags and spent considerable time in Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, police said. Sources tell News4 Tatum also purchased a shovel and lime, which can be used to speed up the decomposition of bodies.

"I still believe she’s alive. It’s all about the faith," Relisha's mother Shamika Young said.

Investigators say the search within Kenilworth Park -- a heavily wooded area -- could take weeks.

It comes a day after authorities had extended their investigation into Relisha's disappearance to Atlanta. Tatum may have connections to the area; he has since been added to the FBI's Wanted List.

Relisha appears to have been missing for weeks before officials realized she was gone. The slim girl, with big eyes and braids, had been absent from school, but officials were told that Relisha was sick.

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

When officials came to the shelter March 19 to pick up the paperwork, they couldn't find "Dr. Tatum" or Relisha. Shortly after, a missing persons report with D.C. Police was filed.

"I wasn’t under the impression she was missing. I thought she was at my sister’s house," Relisha's mother said. She added she shouldn't be held responsible because Relisha was in the care of her grandmother and aunt at the time of her disappearance.

Tatum is believed to be armed, and he is also wanted in the death of his wife, Andrea. Her body was found at an Oxon Hill Red Roof Inn last Thursday during the search for Relisha.

Patrick Kelly, Andrea's cousin, believes she was killed because she knew Tatum was with the missing girl. 

"[Andrea] was a beautiful person and she didn't deserve what she got," Kelly said. "He's a wolf walking out here amongst us. He’s a demon. She lost her life by standing up for what she believed in."

Relisha's mother told News4 she, and her daughter, had a trusting friendship with Tatum. 

A $70,000 reward is being offered by the FBI and Prince George's County Police for information leading to Relisha and Tatum. Call 911 if you have seen either of them. 

CORRECTION (Oct. 29, 2019, 2:49 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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