Police divers continue search for 8-year-old Relisha Rudd, missing for nearly a month

Teams of law-enforcement divers continued the search for 8-year-old Relisha Rudd on Sunday, working the expansive grounds of Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens as another day passed with no sign of the girl, who disappeared nearly a month ago.

D.C. police spokesman Paul Metcalf said divers worked throughout the weekend at the 700-acre park along the Anacostia River in Northeast Washington. Foot searches will resume Monday, police said.

Relisha was last seen March 1 with Kahlil Malik Tatum, 51, a janitor at the homeless shelter at the old D.C. General Hospital, where Relisha lived with her mother and siblings. Police say that the following day, Tatum bought a box of black, 42-gallon contractor trash bags and was seen spending time at the park.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said Thursday that while authorities “have not given up on hope” that the girl will be found alive, the search is now considered a “recovery mission” because police are unable to discount the possibility that Tatum killed the child.

Police officers and federal agents with cadaver dogs combed through the park late last week. Tatum is accused of fatally shooting his wife, Andrea Kelly Tatum, on March 19 or March 20 in a Maryland motel room.

He has not been seen since then.

Relisha’s mother, Shamika Young, had allowed Tatum to care of her daughter beginning on Feb. 26, and had made repeated assurances to people about her daughter’s safety, according to police.

On March 19, a child welfare worker and school social worker went to the homeless shelter to ask Tatum about Relisha’s absences at Payne Elementary School. The girl had missed more than 30 days of class at the time, though many of her absences were excused because her family had submitted a note from a “Dr. Tatum.”

Police said Tatum left the shelter quickly that day. The social workers learned March 19 that Tatum was not a doctor.

Authorities have offered a reward for information leading to Tatum’s arrest and prosecution. A D.C. Superior Court grand jury is investigating possible obstruction of justice charges against Relisha’s mother, according to people familiar with the case

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Donna St. George writes about education, with an emphasis on Montgomery County schools.
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