Search ends in park for missing girl, police to follow new leads

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier tells the press that the search of Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens will conclude Thursday. No additional evidence related to the disappearance of Relisha Rudd was found at the park. Lanier says the late start of the search for the missing 8-year-old made it very difficult to catch up. (WTOP/Andrew Mollebeck)

WASHINGTON — After more than a week searching Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said Thursday that the effort to find Relisha Rudd there had concluded.

Lanier called the search “exhaustive,” with divers, aerial spotters, cadaver dogs and community volunteers all joining the effort that began last Thursday.

“We have not turned up anything in this search that has answered any questions for us about Relisha’s whereabouts,” Lanier says. “It’s heart-wrenchingly frustrating that we don’t have answers as to where she is right now, and we just don’t.”

She called the lack of evidence in the 700-acre park “bittersweet.”

“We were looking for possibly a grave site and a recovery operation, so we’re relieved that we didn’t find that, but we still don’t have answers,” she says.

No one has reported seeing Relisha, 8, since March 1. But she wasn’t confirmed missing until a social worker went to check on her March 19.

It was then that the story about Khalil Tatum, posing as the girl’s doctor, unraveled. He was not a doctor, and his confirmation to the school that she had been out sick suddenly raised a red flag.

Shortly after that, police issued an Amber Alert.

“The very late start has [made it] very difficult to catch up,” Lanier says.

Tatum was the last person seen with Rudd, and his body was later discovered in the park along the Anacostia River. Police said he had killed himself.

Earlier in the month, Tatum had purchased large garbage bags and other items, reportedly lime and a shovel. That purchase and his subsequent sighting in the park led investigators, in part, to search there.

The investigation into Relisha’s disappearance has not ended, Lanier says.

Investigators have new leads to pursue, and police will likely release more photographs of people whom they’d like to identify and find, she says.

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