August 4, 2014

HANDOUT PHOTO: Missing 8-year old Relisha Tenau Rudd, in October 2013. (Courtesy of Homeless Children’s Playtime Project)

Poor Relisha Rudd. The eight-year-old D.C. girl was last seen nearly six months ago — March 1 — in the company of 51-year-old Khalil Malik Tatum, a janitor at the D.C. General homeless shelter where she lived with her family. Tatum, reportedly dead by his own hand, is believed by police to have abducted Relisha.

You haven’t heard much about her in recent months. She’s been replaced in the news cycle by stories about soccer stadiums, the travails and triumphs of area bike riders, and the first coming of the Silver Line. In recent days, Donald Trump and his merry band of grinning D.C. politicians at the groundbreaking of Trump’s new downtown hotel have drawn more press coverage than the whereabouts of that innocent little child.

Not that we haven’t been promised more information. On April 8, at the height of the public furor over Relisha’s apparent abduction, Mayor Vincent C. Gray ordered a thorough review of the city agencies that had contact with the missing girl. He said he had directed Beatriz “BB” Otero, deputy mayor for health and human services, and Abigail Smith, deputy mayor for education, to oversee the review.

Six weeks later, I asked the mayor’s office about the results of the review. One would think they have had enough time, since all of the parties responsible for providing shelter and services to Relisha and her family were within immediate reach of Otero and Smith.

This is what I’ve received from the Gray administration since May:

  • On May 13, Gray’s then-press spokesman Pedro Ribeiro said, “The review “takes time. Mid to late June is the most likely time frame.”
  • On June 30, Ribeiro, responding to another inquiry, wrote “they are still interviewing folks mid/late July is the likely finish date.”
  • On Monday, I asked current press secretary Doxie McCoy via email: “Is the review completed?” (Note: Not a trick question.) Her response: “A draft is completed and under review by legal. Need to ensure no privacy is violated. We are working to get it wrapped up and final ASAP-expectation is a couple of weeks.”

Disappeared in March, and dismissed ever since. Few words recently out of the mouths of our city’s political glory seekers and pastoral care givers, and a press with the attention span of a three year old. Can you imagine what would be happening if Relisha came from the home one of our rich or famous?