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Remains found during Relisha Rudd search ID’d as Kahlil Tatum

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says that a man\'s body was found in the target search area as investigators were combing Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens for missing Relisha Rudd Monday. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)
Search will continue for Relisha

wtopstaff | November 15, 2014 2:18 am

WASHINGTON — A body found in Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens Monday afternoon is that of Kahlil Malik Tatum, D.C. police said Tuesday morning.

Tatum, 51, was the last person seen with 8-year-old Relisha Rudd, who remains missing.

While it appears Tatum died from an apparent gunshot wound, the autopsy report has not yet been completed, a D.C. spokesperson says.

Tatum was wanted on a murder charge for killing his wife Andrea in Prince George’s County. Tatum had not been seen since March 20, when his wife was found dead in an Oxon Hill Red Roof Inn.

D.C. police identified the body as Tatum’s Tuesday morning. D.C. Police Chief Kathy Lanier tentatively confirmed it was Tatum Monday evening.

Lanier said it does appear that Tatum’s death was a suicide, but she declined to comment on any evidence. She calls the discovery “a shock for us.”

Searchers found Tatum as they continued scouring Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens for Relisha, who was last seen March 1 with Tatum. Tatum worked as a janitor at the homeless shelter where Relisha lived with her family.

The park has been the focus of the search for Relisha since Thursday. Police described the intense work at the 700-acre park as a recovery operation and have said that they can’t rule out that Relisha is dead.

Police say that Tatum went to the park on March 2 after purchasing a carton of 42-gallon trash bags and other items.

Dive teams and search and rescue experts joined D.C. police and fire recruits and the FBI to help methodically search the park and the various water gardens and marshes there. The intense foot search began Thursday and continued over the weekend.

Underwater cameras, aerial surveillance, cadaver dogs and search dogs have all helped in the search. Lanier says multiple waves of searchers have covered numerous area of the park: “Just about every area of the 700 acres has been hit by at least one level of search of one kind.”

The search will continue on Tuesday. “We still have a lot to do, and we are still here for the reason we came here to begin with,” Lanier says. “And that is to look for Relisha.”

Lanier says searchers, who will be joined by community volunteers, will need several more days to cover the entire park.

“There is still a lot of work to be done and more searching to be done. We are not finished here,” Lanier says.

She adds that if you have any information you think can help the investigation, police still want to hear from you: “We’re still asking for the public’s assistance. We are still getting quite a few tips and leads in.”

About 100 people, many of whom knew Rudd or her family, marched down Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue on Monday evening, and later lit candles.

ABC7’s Tom Rousey told WTOP’s Dimitri Sotis that the message was “Relisha, come home.”

Rousey spoke with Rudd’s step-grandmother, Shannon Smith, who said she was “really trying not to think of the worst,” but that Monday’s news lends an extra urgency.

Rudd’s grandmother said, “I don’t know how much more of this I can take,” according to Rousey.

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