Relisha Rudd, the eight-year-old Washington D.C. girl who has been missing since March 1, is believed to have been abducted by Kahlil Tatum, a janitor who worked at a homeless shelter where the girl lived with her mother, stepfather and three brothers. Searchers on Monday in Washington D.C.’s Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens found a body. But it is not Relisha Rudd.
Instead, they say the body is that of the 51-year-old Tatum, who it now appears committed suicide after abducting Relisha Rudd and murdering his own wife as well. Police also believe that Tatum killed Relisha Rudd before killing himself. They have been searching Kenilworth Park since they received information that Tatum was sighted there earlier in March.
They also learned that Tatum purchased a shovel, oversize garbage bags and lime before he was sighted in the park, leading investigators to suspect that the janitor buried the body of Relisha Rudd somewhere in the 700-acre national park.
“Everything we have is consistent with what we know about his appearance,” said Washington D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, confirming a “tentative” identification of the body as Tatum. Lanier also said she was “pretty comfortable” with the conclusion that Tatum killed himself.
She called the discovery of Tatum’s body “a shock for us.” Police still do not know where Relisha Rudd is, or exactly what happened to her.
The search of Kenilworth Park has been ongoing since last week, with 100 searchers systematically combing the park for 16 hours each day looking for signs of Relisha Rudd. But the surprise discovery of the body thought to be Tatum is the first relevant piece of evidence they’ve uncovered, at least that has yet been made public.
The discovery of his body takes Tatum of the FBI’s Most Wanted list. They had believed that he may have taken Rudd as far away as Atlanta, but now say neither he nor the girl ever left the Washington D.C. region. The body of Tatum’s wife, Denise Tatum, was discovered in motel room in Oxon Hill, Maryland, on March 20.
Police have also learned that Tatum earlier had what Lanier called “contact” with three or four other girls at the homeless shelter before he kidnapped Relisha Rudd, but the police chief would not specify the nature of that “contact.”
The search for Relisha Rudd continues in the park, Lanier said.