Where is Relisha Rudd?
WASHINGTON (WUSA9) — It’s been two years since Relisha Rudd went missing. As time passes with no sign of her, the question remains: where is Relisha Rudd?
Relisha Rudd was last seen on March 1 with her alleged abductor Khalil Tatum, 51, a janitor who worked at the homeless shelter Relisha and her mom lived in.
Just days after Relisha’s disappearance in 2014, her stepfather posted photos on Facebook, flaunting a new cell phone, expensive shoes and large stacks of money.
Images of these expensive goods made many people wonder if the Relisha was sold into child sex trafficking -- it’s a lucrative industry worth over $100 million in Washington D.C. alone.
RELATED: 11 facts about child sex trafficking
“Those images are things that alarmed us.” said Natalie Wilson, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation. She believes Relisha was groomed into sex child sex trafficking.
“We know that the DMV is a hub for sex trafficking and we are seeing an increase in the number of kids from homeless shelters and foster care that are being lured into sex trafficking,” said Wilson.
“One of the working theories was that she was sold into child sex trafficking; even possibly down in Atlanta Georgia. Obviously, that has not been proven but that is what a lot of people were thinking could have been the case,” said Nikki Burdine, a WUSA9 Reporter who covered Rudd’s disappearance in 2014.
Child sex trafficking victims are often transported far from their homes and isolated from family and friends, forcing them to depend on the person victimizing them. Traffickers force drug use and use emotional manipulation, violence, and abuse to control their victims.
The average age for entry into child sex trafficking is between 12 and 14 years old. Relisha was only 8 years old when she went missing, but it is not uncommon for children as young as 5, 6, or 7 years old to be exploited.
There is also a large possibility that Rudd was murdered by Tatum.
Relisha was not reported missing until March 19 when her school officials notified police that she missed 30 days of school.
Tatum’s wife was found dead by a gunshot wound to the head on March 20. Days later, Tatum was found dead in Kenilworth Park. He shot himself, taking everything he knew about Relisha to the grave.
“I can’t help but feel for Relisha’s family. They are left with so many questions…they don’t know where their little girl is and they don’t know if she is ever coming home,” said Burdine.
“We like to hold onto hope that she is still alive until there is a body that would lead us to believe otherwise,” said Wilson. Her organization that brings awareness to missing children of color. Visit www.bamfi.org to see images of missing children. If you recognize any of the kids, you can make a report and help bring a child home.
The FBI is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to the location and return of missing 8-year-old Relisha Rudd. If you have any information concerning this investigation, please contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI, or the nearest FBI office.
If you or someone you know is a victim of trafficking, you can get help by contacting the National Human Trafficking hotline. The number to call is 1-888-3737-888.
RELATED: How to help a missing child