Search for Missing Girl Ends in D.C. Park; No Evidence of Her Whereabouts Found

Relisha Rudd last seen March 1 with Kahlil Tatum, 51; Tatum's body was found at the park Monday

The desperate search for possible remains of a missing 8-year-old girl has ended in a northeast D.C. park -- with no sign of where Relisha Rudd could be.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier called the lack of any evidence found in Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in northeast D.C. "heart-wrenchingly frustrating."

Relisha Rudd was last seen with 51-year-old Kahlil Tatum, a janitor at the homeless shelter where Relisha and her family lived. Police were investigating the possibility that Tatum had killed Relisha and buried her body in the park.

The young girl was last seen March 1, with Tatum. Rudd's mother knew she was with Tatum, police have said.

On March 2 Tatum bought contractor-sized trash bags and spent some time in Kenilworth Park, police said. Other sources have said Tatum also bought a shovel and lime, which can be used to speed up the process of decomposition.

On Monday, Tatum's body was found in the park during the search for Relisha. Police believe he committed suicide; his body had been in the park for at least 36 hours.

The search of the park started a week ago and included firefighters, police cadets, community volunteers, aerial surveillance and divers.

Thursday, Lanier said the search of the 700-acre park, which includes wooded areas and bodies of water, was over.

"While we are all a bit relieved we did not find Relisha here the way we anticipated we would find her,  it's heart-wrenchingly frustrating that we don't have answers as to where she is right now," Lanier said. "And we just don't."

She called the search "mentally and physically tedious and exhausting."

"We came here expecting the worst ... so we are relieved we did not find that but we still don't have answers," Lanier said.

She said the police remain hopeful, and though they have been searching for the girl's body, they would not rule out the possibility Relisha is alive. She called the investigation "very active" and said police are continuing to investigate tips and other evidence that they have uncovered.

The disappearance of Relisha, a slight girl with big eyes, has shocked the D.C. area. Relisha was not officially reported missing until March 19. Investigators have said Tatum posed as a doctor to excuse her absences from school and that the girl's mother did not report her missing to police.

"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.

Lanier has that Tatum had contact with other young girls at the shelter. It's not known whether those interactions were sexual in nature.

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

Tatum was also wanted in the death of his wife, Andrea. Her body was found at an Oxon Hill Red Roof Inn March 20 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."

A $70,000 reward was being offered by the FBI and Prince George's County Police for information leading to Relisha and Tatum. Call 911 if you have information on this case.

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