WASHINGTON - The search for a missing 8-year-old girl is expected to stretch through the weekend as more than 100 officers continued combing through a 700-acre park along the Anacostia River for any sign of the girl Friday.
D.C. police have focused their search for Relisha Rudd on Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens after learning that the man last seen with the girl went to the park after purchasing a box of 42-gallon trash bags and other items.
But investigators continue to follow other leads, are searching in other areas for both Relisha and Kahlil Malik Tatum, and are exploring the relationship between Tatum and other children at the D.C. homeless shelter where he worked.
Chief Cathy Lanier says officials are still hopeful that they may yet find Relisha alive. However she has described the efforts at the park as a recovery operation.
"We are discouraged at times by the amount of time she's been missing," Lanier says.
The last confirmed sighting of the girl was March 1, she was with Tatum, who led police to the park. An Amber Alert was issued for Relisha on March 20, hours after Tatum's wife Andrea was found dead inside an Oxon Hill Red Roof Inn.
In an afternoon press briefing, Lanier says that dive teams were searching the various ponds, marshes and waterways in the park. Teams of police, fire and EMS recruits along with search and rescue experts from Montgomery County and other agencies were all assisting in what Lanier calls a "technical" search.
"This search will take us through the weekend," Lanier says.
Help from the community will be needed as the search at the park continues next week, she says.
Meanwhile, police continue to search for Tatum. Tatum is wanted on a murder charge in Prince George's County.
But his relationship with several girls who lived at the D.C. homeless shelter where Tatum was a janitor, and where Relisha lived, is also under investigation, Lanier says.
Investigators have spoken with three or four families of girls who lived at the shelter but Lanier says they don't know if Tatum had any sexual contact with the girls.
"Because of the nature of what we're doing here, we're concerned about what that contact (with the girls) was. And because of the fact that Mr. Tatum now is wanted for murder, we are concerned about what contact he had with anyone," Lanier says.
Investigators believe Tatum has remained in the metro area, she says.
"This would be a lot easier for all of us if he would just turn himself in," Lanier says.
Anyone who finds Relisha or Tatum is asked to call 911 or the Command Information Center at 202-727-9099 or 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).
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