AMBER ALERT: Search of park for DC missing girl ends

WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- "We have concluded an exhaustive search of the park," said Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier to reporters on Thursday morning about developments in the case of 8-year-old Relisha Rudd. She added, ""We have not turned up anything in this search that has answered any questions for us about Relisha's whereabouts."

Rudd was last seen March 1 in the area of Bladensburg Road in Northeast Washington, according to police. She was believed to be with Kahlil Tatum, who worked at the D.C. homeless shelter where Rudd's family stayed and who was also on the FBI's list of Most Wanted for Violent Crimes after he allegedly killed his wife in Maryland.

Tatum was later discovered dead in Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in D.C. Police are still looking for Rudd.

Thursday, Lanier thanked the officers and more than 200 community volunteers who participated in a multi-day search for Rudd in the park. They found no evidence of the girl and nothing was found near Tatum's body on Monday that could indicate where Rudd may be, say police.

Lanier told reporters on Thursday that "while we're all a bit relieved we haven't found Relisha here the way we expected to find her, it's extremely frustrating to not know."

Lanier later added about Relisha's whereabouts, "The one person I think could have given us the best answer, Mr. Tatum, can't give us that answer anymore." Police do not believe that Tatum left the region at any time during Rudd's disappearance. "We're confident about his travel patterns," said Lanier.

Lanier assured the crowd that "If we find evidence of a crime by anyone else in the course of this investigation, they will be charged."

"We hope she's still alive," stated Lanier.

A national missing persons organization in Washington, D.C. thinks that Rudd could have been sold into a human trafficking network. The Black and Missing Foundation has been assisting the Metropolitan Police Department in the search for Relisha.

"I'm pulling at everything in me and there's nothing in my gut that tells me we're in a recovery operation. I feel that we're searching for a live person," said Derrica Wilson, a former police officer.

She is convinced Relisha could be anywhere - still alive, but not well.

"This case has really rocked me to the core. I personally feel that this little girl was sold. I think her mother sold her to Tatum and I think Tatum has sold her in this world wide industry of trafficking," said the former officer.

Derrica and her sister Natalie Wilson founded the Black and Missing Foundation in an effort to bring awareness to missing persons of color, a segment of the missing persons population they say too often goes unnoticed. But, not Relisha.

"Compared to other cases, Relisha's case has gotten quite a bit of media coverage," said Natalie Wilson.

This could be the case for various reasons, including the fact that Relisha is so young, and a cute kid who was seemingly handed over to her abductor by her own mother.

"We're holding on to hope that she is alive and somewhere and we need to bring her home," added Derrica.

The sisters stress that the search for Relisha needs to expand far beyond D.C. and include more than just police.

"She could be anywhere and we need to help find her. We would like the public to get involved. Again, somebody knows something," pointed out Natalie.

They added that it's important to realize Relisha's appearance may very well have been changed, so, the pictures we've seen in recent weeks may not be exactly what we should be looking for.

Natalie Wilson said Relisha could have shorter hair or may be dressed like a little boy, so it's important take an extra look at every child you come across.


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