WASHINGTON — The Metropolitan Police Department has been leading the search for 8-year-old Relisha Rudd, who was last seen Feb. 26 at a shelter in Southeast D.C., and it is still a very active investigation says Chief of Police Cathy Lanier.
“I don’t have anything that would indicate we are close to closing this case,” Lanier said during WTOP’s Ask the Chief program Wednesday.
“There are still tips and leads coming in. We still have things to investigate. We aren’t going to stop looking for Relisha, we’ll continue to look for her.”
Police last week searched for Rudd in Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Northeast D.C., but didn’t find her. They did, however, find the body of 51-year-old Khalil Tatum — the man last seen with her on March 1.
A search of Tatum’s residence Wednesday came up empty. Federal marshals searched his apartment, but found nothing.
The police department receives as many as five tips a day in the Rudd case — some of them from all over the United States, Lanier says.
“Everybody just wants to help her,” Lanier says. “Not every case gets this attention.”
Relisha was last seen March 1, but authorities did not know about her disappearance until March 19 when a social worker went to the homeless shelter where she lived with her mother and asked about her school absences.
The search began immediately and an Amber Alert was sent.
“I wish that, in hindsight, that the first day Relisha was not seen by her family, we started looking for her. That’s ultimately what I wish,” Lanier says.
As the search for Rudd continues, Lanier says she hopes a new initiative involving the department’s own bloodhound, Sam, brings awareness to local children about the case.
The “real-life McGruff” not only helped in the search for Rudd in Kenilworth Park, but also provides a “calm, sweet face for the kids to connect to,” Lanier says of the dog who is now on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Sam’s social media accounts will have information about the search for Rudd and safety tips for kids.
“We can’t ignore the fact that little children watch the news and they’re scared, and they want to know that we are still looking for this little girl,” Lanier says.
Will she stay on with the next mayor?
During Ask the Chief, Lanier also said she has spoken with mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser about staying on as police chief. Bowser has asked Lanier to stay on as chief should she win. Lanier says she has not spoken with David Catania yet.
Lanier’s current contract runs through 2017, ending halfway through the next mayor’s new term. While she doesn’t know what’s next, she says a mayoral run hasn’t crossed her mind.
“I’m not a public politician, I’m a police chief.”