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Authorities hold hope missing 8-year-old Relisha Rudd is still alive

D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier holds a news conference to update the media on the case of missing 8-year-old Relisha Rudd. USE OF PHOTO PROHIBITED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.
D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier holds a news conference to update the media on the case of missing 8-year-old Relisha Rudd. USE OF PHOTO PROHIBITED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.
Don Baxter/Media Images International

During an afternoon news conference March 27 – hours after law enforcement authorities began searching the expansive Kenilworth Park for missing 8-year-old Relisha Rudd – D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said she continues to hold hope that Relisha is still alive, despite calling police activity at the park a “recovery operation.”

“We cannot ignore the possibility that he may have killed her,” said Lanier.

View photos of Relisha and Kahlil Tatum.

Relisha was last seen March 1 with 51-year-old Kahlil Tatum. The following day, Tatum purchased a container of large 42-gallon contractor trash bags in the District of Columbia. According to authorities, Tatum was spotted in the area of the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens shortly after he made that purchase. Information subsequently gathered by law enforcement led to a search of the park.

In the period between March 2 thru March 20, Tatum continued to go to work and was sited at numerous locations throughout the District of Columbia. Relisha has not been seen since March 2.

March 20, authorities found Tatum’s wife dead in a Prince George’s County, MD hotel. Tatum has not been seen since that day.

Lanier said that Tatum had custody of Relisha with the mother’s consent and knowledge. The girl’s parents reportedly described Tatum as her ‘godfather.’ Relisha had been in his custody several times prior to March 1 and was always returned without any incident.

In the days following Relisha’s disappearance, Lanier said authorities did not have sufficient evidence to issue an Amber Alert because the mother willingly allowed Tatum to care for her. It was not until March 20 – the day Tatum’s wife was killed – that D.C. authorities issued the Amber Alert.

Information also surfaced that Relisha’s mother conspired with Tatum to conceal the girl’s whereabouts from school officials. Lanier was cautious in responding to a reporter’s question about whether charges will be filed against the mother should Relisha be found dead.

“Right now our priority remains focused on Relisha,” said Lanier. “There is a very active investigation going on … and charges for anyone down the road, we’ll talk about those when the time comes.”

Tatum remains at-large on an outstanding warrant for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. The FBI has offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to his arrest and indictment. Authorities ask that you contact your local law enforcement or the FBI with information.

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