The grid search for possible remains of a missing 8-year-old girl at a large D.C. park enters its third day Saturday.
The latest confirmed sighting of Relisha Rudd was March 1 at a motel on New York Avenue in northeast D.C., and police believe she was accompanied by 51-year-old Kahlil Tatum. He worked as a janitor at a homeless shelter where Relisha and her family stayed.
Police say Tatum purchased a shovel, lime and contractor-sized trashbags at a Home Depot, and spent a significant amount of time at nearby Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens on March 2.
Cadets, officers and firefighters conducted a grid search of the 700-acre park from dawn to dusk Thursday and Friday. Dive teams are scheduled to search small bodies of water throughout the park this weekend, and searches conducted on foot will resume Monday as the weather clears up.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier earlier this week said officers are preparing for the worst-case scenario.
“We cannot ignore the possibility that [Tatum] may have killed her,” Lanier said. “Given the circumstances right now, we are fearful of leaving any stones unturned.”
Though Lanier said she remains hopeful Relisha will be found alive, she also said the search had turned into a “recovery” mission. She said the department will reach out to community groups to help with some portions of the search some time next week, if need be.
The news sheds a new and heartbreaking light on the search for Relisha. She was officially reported missing March 19 and an Amber Alert was issued the next day.
During a search of Tatum’s southeast D.C. apartment, police found five cell phones, a photo of Relisha, children’s clothing and $87 in cash.
Friday, Lanier said Tatum has had contact with other young girls at the shelter. It’s not known whether those interactions were sexual in nature. Officers are in contact with their families, she said.
“We don’t have enough information right now to know that. We do know that he had contact with those girls,” Lanier said.
Police also said Relisha’s mother knew she was with Tatum; the mother did not report the girl as missing. Surveillance video had captured Tatum and Relisha in a D.C. hotel on Feb. 26.
“I still believe she’s alive. It’s all about the faith,” Relisha’s mother Shamika Young said.
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SOURCE: NBC4 Washington