Police dive teams combed the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C., Saturday in a search for 8-year-old Relisha Rudd, who was last seen March 1 with a janitor from a homeless shelter who police think abducted her, the Washington Post reported.
Relisha was last seen with Kahlil Malik Tatum, the janitor from the shelter at the old D.C. General Hospital, where Relisha was enrolled in the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project. She was living at the shelter with her mother.
Hugh Carew, a D.C. Police spokesman, told the paper that dive teams were searching the river at the 700-acre Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in northeast Washington. Carew also said a foot search would continue on Monday.
Police said the day after Relisha’s disappearance, Tatum bought a box of 42-gallon trash bags and was seen in Kenilworth Park for a period of time.
Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said on Thursday that police remain hopeful that Relisha is alive, but she said the search had become a “recovery mission.”
"We have not given up hope that we may still find Relisha alive."
- DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier
"We have not given up hope that we may still find Relisha alive," Lanier said.
Still, she said, police could not ignore the possibility that Tatum had killed the girl.
According to MyFoxDC.com, Lanier also said authorities are now certain that Tatum had contact with other girls at the same homeless shelter where Relisha and her family live. Lanier said police are currently in contact with three to four other families and that the nature of the contacts is under investigation. She did not give any other details.
Washington D.C. officials said Wednesday that Tatum posed as Relisha’s doctor and took calls from her elementary school teacher to confirm she was sick.
Officials familiar with the investigation told MyFoxDC.com that Relisha Rudd's mother, grandmother and Tatum were all working together in an effort to fool teachers and administrators at Payne Elementary School into believing the 8-year-old was not coming to school because she was sick.
“He basically assured the school the child had been ill and gave some detailed information around that,” said Bebe Otero, the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services.
Police have obtained an arrest warrant for Tatum, 51, charging him with the murder of his wife, Andrea Tatum.
Prince George’s County authorities released the arrest warrant and charging documents against Kahlil Tatum on Friday, MyFoxDC.com reported. The documents say that while searching for Relisha on March 20, a day after she was reported missing, authorities found Tatum’s white truck at the Red Roof Inn in Oxon Hill, Md., where his wife’s body was found.
When Andrea Tatum was found, she was lying face down with a gunshot wound to the head. Her death was ruled a homicide the next day.
Several people interviewed by police during a room-by-room search of the hotel said they had not seen a young girl.
Police think Tatum fatally shot his wife the night of March 19 or the next morning, according to the Post.
Authorities are offering a $45,000 reward for information leading to Tatum’s arrest and prosecution, as well as a $25,000 reward for Relisha’s safe return.