Nothing Significant Found in Renewed Search for Relisha Rudd

Nothing significant was found Thursday in a renewed search for evidence in the disappearance of Relisha Rudd, who was 8 years old when she went missing nearly two years ago. 

Dozens of police officers, federal agents and police dogs scoured a construction site in Northeast Washington for seven hours during a renewed search for the body of the little girl who went missing in March 2014.

Authorities have been looking for Relisha since she disappeared, but new information prompted a new round of searches, police said early Thursday.

Relisha was last seen March 1, 2014 at a Northeast Washington motel in the company of Kahlil Tatum. Tatum was a janitor at D.C. General, the homeless shelter where Relisha lived with her mother and siblings. The second-grader's family had allowed her to spend time with Tatum.

Police cadets and K-9 teams began searching a construction site located across the street from the police department's Fifth District Station just after 8 a.m. Thursday. The construction site is close to the hotel where Relisha last was seen.

The search combed through the abandoned lot, at one point using shovels and a rake to dig up what turned out to be a bag. 

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said a second site will be searched next, the location of which she did not reveal.

"This is the first step in what is probably going to be several days of additional searches," she said. "We're going to continue to search for Relisha Rudd until we've exhausted all means."

Lanier said "extensive dives" into information investigators already had and new information about Tatum's movements prompted the latest round of searches. Divers searched the Anacostia River last summer for clues. 

Lanier also renewed her call for community members to come forward with any information about the little girl's disappearance.

The FBI's Washington Field Office is assisting D.C. police with the ongoing investigation into Relisha's disappearance.

"One of the FBI's top priorities is protecting children from violent crimes and we remain committed to finding Relisha or any child that goes missing," the FBI said in a statement Thursday.


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Police have said Tatum purchased a shovel, lime and contractor-sized trashbags, and spent a significant amount of time at Kenilworth Park around the time Relisha was last seen. Investigators looked into the possibility that Tatum killed Relisha and buried her in the park, but her body was never found. 

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

The little girl 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 Tatum posed as a doctor on March 10, telling city officials who were concerned for her safety that Relisha 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 and her family lived.

When officials went to the shelter March 19 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.

No one has been charged in Relisha's disappearance.

In the months following her disappearance, D.C. officials took a second look at how they handled her case. The report found the District couldn't have prevented the little girl's disappearance, citing, in part, misleading information provided by Relisha's family.

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

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