WASHINGTON — Police will continue searching a local park for a missing 8-year-old girl after receiving information that an alleged murderer and child abductor spent time there.
Relisha Rudd's mother gave permission for the 8-year-old to be with Kahlil Tatum, according to Metropolitan Police Department Police Chief Cathy Lanier. But that was weeks ago.
Relisha has not been seen since March 1, when she was seen with Tatum, a janitor at the DC General Homeless Shelter where Relisha had lived with her mother and stepfather for the last year.
On March 2, police determined that Tatum bought some black 42-gallon trash bags, a shovel and lime or lye — a chemical sometimes used in the burying of bodies — in the District and was seen at the Kenilworth Aquatic Center and Park soon after those purchases, said Lanier.
"This trash bag thing really has me scared now," said Belinda Wheeler, Relisha's step-grandmother. "You're not going to do no lawnscaping, landscaping or whatever. Why you buying trash bags? Makes me think (Tatum is) trying to hide something. He's trying to hide something."
Tatum was seen at work and other places, between March 2nd and March 20, says Lanier, but Relisha was not with him.
D.C. police officers, search dogs and FBI agents combed an area of Kenilworth Park on Thursday looking for something in connection with the girl's disappearance.
"We're not making any assumptions but I think it would be prudent for us to search, and this is a very large area," Lanier said. "We cannot ignore the possibility that he may have killed her.
"To me, that sounds like she's dead," said Wheeler. "I don't want to think this, I want her brought back home, but once again, once you're under pressure you're liable to do anything," she added about Tatum, who Wheeler thinks may panic and hurt Relisha.
Relisha has been missing since Feb. 26. She had been living at the D.C. General homeless shelter in the District with her mother and stepfather. Tatum was the janitor at the shelter. An Amber Alert was issued for Relisha on March 20.
According to Lanier, Relisha's mother told officials that Tatum was her godfather and Relisha was with him with her permission. Relisha's mother added that there had been no issues in the past with Tatum.
The FBI on Wednesday placed Kahlil Tatum on its Most Wanted list for murder.
Following leads in the search for Tatum and Relisha, police found Tatum's wife, Andrea Denise Tatum, beaten to death in an Oxon Hill, Md., hotel room, and no sign of Tatum and the girl.
"He killed his wife," said Wheeler of Tatum, who is charged with killing Andrea Tatum, 51. Tatum has not been convicted. "If you could kill your wife of 23 years, what about a child that you've only known a year?"
He has also been charged by the United States Attorney's Office in Maryland for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.