D.C. police on Wednesday launched another search for the remains of Relisha Rudd, the girl who disappeared 25 months ago with the janitor of a District homeless shelter, this time focused on the grounds of the U.S. National Arboretum in Northeast Washington.
Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said the effort involves 60 members from her force, the FBI and the National Center for Exploited and Missing Children. She added that divers will search a murky pond and that dogs would assist.
Even after two years, Lanier said, “we continue to follow up on any information we receive that may lead us to a different search area or different people we need to talk to.” Police said they concluded Wednesday’s efforts without finding the girl’s remains, and Lanier said the effort could continue Thursday.
Lanier declined to specify what led police to the 400-acre arboretum but said, “We get new information in the case that has led us to search areas, and this is one of those areas.”
Brenda Brown, who said she has become a friend of the Rudd family since the girl’s disappearance and conducted several searches in the D.C. area on her own, said she was relieved to hear that police are continuing to work on the case. “We need to find her,” she said of Relisha. “We just can’t let this go unresolved. It was just so foul, and no one has been held accountable.”
The last full-scale search for Relisha, who was 8 when she disappeared, was in December at a 15-acre construction site a short distance from a hotel on New York Avenue in Northeast Washington where she was last seen alive with her abductor, who later was found dead. Nothing was found at the construction site.
Relisha disappeared in February 2014 from the homeless shelter at the old D.C. General Hospital, where she was living with her family. She was in the company of the janitor, Kahlil Malik Tatum, at the time and was seen walking with him down a hallway of a Holiday Inn Express at Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue on Feb. 26, 2014. Relisha was last seen March 1, according to D.C. police.
Police efforts to find Relisha have focused on several areas of the city. After an unsuccessful March 2014 search at the 700-acre Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, which abuts the arboretum, police all but declared Relisha dead and described further searches as recovery missions.
During that earlier search, however, police found Tatum’s body in a shed at the park. Police said he committed suicide after abducting Relisha and killing his wife in a Maryland hotel room.
They also said that Tatum, 51, had bought large trash bags and was seen on surveillance video at the Holiday Inn Express. The hotel is not far from the site of the December search and is down the street from the arboretum.
Relisha’s mother, Shamika Young, has maintained that her daughter is still alive. In February, she joined family and friends at the Deanwood Recreation Center to mark the two-year anniversary of Relisha’s disappearance. “I still have hope and faith that she’ll return one day,” she said at the time.
Young has long had a contentious relationship with city authorities, who accused her of misleading them about Relisha’s whereabouts when the second-grader was discovered missing. The family had allowed the girl to be in the company of Tatum.
In the December search, up to 80 officers and cadets, some with dogs trained to smell cadavers, combed through weeds and over mounds of hard red clay. The construction lot was once considered for a Walmart store and was more active at the time Relisha went missing in March 2014.