Wanted man found dead, but D.C. girl still missing

Teams spread out on foot as they search for 8-year-old Relisha Rudd at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens Tuesday afternoon. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
Searchers comb every corner of park for Relisha

wtopstaff | November 15, 2014 2:20 am

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WASHINGTON – The recovery of the man last seen with a missing 8-year-old girl has provided few answers for investigators who resumed their search of a D.C. park Tuesday.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says that investigators have found no evidence at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens that has helped them locate Relisha Rudd, who hasn’t been seen since March 1.

“She has not been seen since then and that is what gives us the gravest concern,” Lanier says.

However Lanier says investigators don’t know that she has been killed and she may still be alive.

The search for Relisha at the park will likely wrap up Wednesday as investigators conclude a shoulder-to-shoulder, methodical search of the 700-acre park.

Investigators came to the park last Thursday searching for a possible grave site and brought cadaver dogs with them to search for her body. Instead, after days of repeated searches, investigators came across the body of Kahlil Malik Tatum, the man last seen with Relisha almost three weeks ago.

Tatum’s death has been ruled a suicide, Lanier sayd. D.C. police said previously that he died of a gunshot wound.

Officials believe he died at least 36 hours before he was found midday Monday but his body could have been in the park for several days, she says.

Finding Tatum wraps up two prongs of the investigation that spilled into Prince George’s County, where Tatum is believed to have killed his wife Andrea. Police found her in an Oxon Hill Red Roof Inn while they were searching for Relisha.

Prince George’s County police say that they have closed the investigation into Andrea Tatum’s homicide and are not looking for any other suspects now that Kahlil Tatum has been found dead.

Investigators weren’t surprised that Tatum took his own life. But they were not expecting to find Tatum in the park, Lanier says.

Lanier says dive teams continue to search the various ponds, marshes and water gardens at the park, which lies along the Anacostia River, as searchers above ground walk “every inch” of the park multiple times.

Unlike previous days when searchers focused on wooded areas deep within the park, searchers worked in plain view of the road outside the park. They turned over trash cans and traffic barrels, combed through the playground and tennis courts along Anacostia Avenue.

As many as 200 people working two shifts per day are helping search the park, Lanier says.

Another round of community volunteers will join the painstaking effort Wednesday, which will likely be the last day of the search efforts at the park. But investigators will continue to follow tips and new leads, Lanier says.

“The investigation will not end when the search ends,” she says.

Police believe that Tatum went to the park on March 2 armed with a carton of 42- gallon trash bags and other items. Since then he was seen numerous times in the District and even reported to work at the D.C. General homeless shelter, the same shelter where Relisha lived with her family.

He hasn’t been seen since March 20, the day his wife Andrea was found dead. An Amber Alert for Relisha was issued that same day.

School absences sparked the search for Relisha March 19, according to The Associated Press.

Anyone with information about Relisha’s whereabouts or disappearance is asked to call 911 or 202-727-9099.

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WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and on Facebook.

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