WASHINGTON – The mother of an 8-year-old who was last seen with a homeless shelter janitor insists she is a “hell of a good mother” despite her confusing reactions to her daughter’s disappearance and the fact she did not report her missing in the first place.
D.C. police say Kahlil Malik Tatum, 51, the man last seen with Relisha Rudd, a child living at the homeless shelter where he worked as a janitor, may have killed her. They are now calling the search for her a “recovery operation.”
Investigators spent the day at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens scouring the grounds for any signs of Rudd, who was last seen with Tatum on March 1. The next day, Tatum reportedly purchased 42-gallon, contractor-sized trash bags at a store in the District and then spent a “period of time” at the aquatic gardens, says D.C. police Chief Cathy Lanier.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier describes the search in the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens Thursday as a recovery operation. She says they still have hope that Relisha Rudd is alive. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)
Tatum is charged with murdering his wife in Prince George’s County. He is also accused by the FBI of fleeing to avoid prosecution.
Relisha was with Tatum with her mother’s permission, Lanier says.
City officials had previously said that Relisha was last seen March 7 by a teacher at her school.
However, Lanier says investigators have determined the last confirmed sighting of Relisha was March 1 in the District.
Lanier would not provide more details about where the girl was seen.
Thursday night, NBC Washington reports that Rudd’s mother, Shamika Young, 27, says she let her daughter go with Tatum because “He didn’t look like that type of person.”
As for why she never reported her daughter missing, she added, “I didn’t want to lose my other three kids.”
According to a Washington Post report March 26, city records show that D.C. social service agencies had contact with the girl and her family numerous times since Relisha was 1 or 2-years-old but the episodes apparently never led to a removal of her, or her siblings, from the home.
The records did show, according to The Washington Post, that officials reported instances of “physical abuse, filthy living conditions and a lack of food.”
Meanwhile, Young denied the rumor that she refused to file a missing-persons report after being asked to by the D.C. police: “They never asked me.”
She added, “I’m a hell of a good mother. … There’s kids out here that wish they had a mother like me.”
Young also claimed that at the time of Rudd’s disappearance, the girl was in the care of her grandmother and aunt. NBC Washington says the two women denied that.
Young’s words to her daughter: “I love you, and come back home to your mother safely.”