Man questioned in Relisha Rudd case had no new clues, D.C. police chief says

A man D.C. police said was questioned in the case of a missing 8-year-old girl went to authorities after seeing his picture in the news media, voluntarily submitted to an interview and has nothing more to do with the case, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said Wednesday.

“We knew there was some contact” with the janitor at a homeless shelter who was believed to have taken Relisha Rudd, Lanier said during “Ask the Chief” on WTOP (103.5 FM). “We wanted to find out what that contact was and what he knew.” Police released a video of the man last week, saying at the time that they did not know his name.

Police made the video public a day after ending the week-long search for Relisha in Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. She has not been found. The 52-year-old janitor, Kahlil Malik Tatum, was found dead of an apparent suicide in the park March 31.

Lanier said that FBI analysts are continuing to work with D.C. police to find Relisha and understand what she was doing with Tatum. Lanier said earlier that police fear Relisha is dead, although she said they still hold out hope that she is alive.

Relisha’s mother allowed the child to go home with Tatum, who worked at the shelter at the old D.C. General Hospital. The family last saw Relisha on Feb. 26, according to police. Relisha’s mother never reported the girl missing.

Police didn’t get involved until March 19, after a social worker at Relisha’s school began making inquiries about her extended absences.

The next day, police found Tatum’s wife dead of a gunshot wound to the head at an Oxon Hill motel. Prince George’s County police issued a warrant charging Tatum with murder.

Authorities say that Relisha was last seen in Northeast Washington on March 1 and that the next day Tatum bought 42-gallon trash bags and was seen in the park. Police have been frustrated by several different accounts by Relisha’s relatives, including some saying they spoke to Relisha on the phone a few days before police got involved. Officials have said that a grand jury is considering charging Relisha’s mother with obstruction of justice.

During her radio program, Lanier talked only about the difficulties of getting such a late start in the investigation. “I wish that, in hindsight, the first day Relisha was not seen by her family was when we started looking for her,” she said.

On Tuesday, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said he ordered a review of agencies that had contact with Relisha, including the school system and Child and Family Services.

Gray said Wednesday that he had hoped the case would have been resolved by now. “We didn’t want to interfere with the law enforcement investigation by any stretch, but I wanted people to understand that we are continuing to focus,” Gray said.

“We will focus on this piece of it at this stage as law enforcement continues to do its work to try to find Relisha and settle this horrific situation that occurred.”

Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.

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