Police: Tatum purchased large garbage bags shortly before being seen near park
(WJLA) - Police and FBI agents, along with their canines, spent Wednesday here in Kenilworth Park to search for the remains of missing eight-year-old Relisha Rudd.
They don’t know whether the child is dead, but as Police Chief Lanier put it: "The amount of time she has been missing and the circumstances that we have make us more uncomfortable."
At an earlier news conference, Lanier said the last confirmed sighting of the child was when she was seen with Tatum on March 1. Then, several suspicious things happened.
"On March 2, we know that Mr. Tatum purchased – among other items – a carton of black 42-gallon contractor trash bags in D.C. Not long after that purchase, Mr. Tatum was in the area of the Aquatic Gardens for a period of time."
"He went back to work and was sited numerous times between the 2nd and the 20th,"continued Lanier. "And in none of those sightings was Relisha with him."
This timeline is why authorities are searching the park. Police did not say exactly how they knew he was in the area, but speculation revolves around cell phone signals. Also, residents say that Tatum grew up in this area in Kenilworth Parkside Public Housing.
“I’m hearing he had ties to this community, that he used to live here like 30 years ago,” said nearby neighbor Will Ross.
A truck that police were seeking in connection with Rudd’s disappearance was found near the area as well.
"We cannot ignore the possibility that he may have killed her,” Lanier has said. "Given the circumstances that we have right now...we are not leaving any stone unturned."
Later on Wednesday, ABC 7 uncovered an Instagram video posted to the open account of Shamika Young, which is the name of the missing girl’s mother. It is time-stamped March 1.
We have blurred the identities of everyone except what appears to be Relisha in the upper left-hand corner. We verified with a family member who was there, that this video was in fact shot during the first week of March.
"She had brought shoes over here and all the kids had on their new shoes," explained the relative.
Shannon Smith, who told us that Relisha had been one of her cheerleaders at Ferebee Hope Elementary School, was drawn to the search site but is still hoping for a good outcome:
"I'm asking, if she still has breath in her body, somebody just bring her back...drop her off in a hospital, just let her walk in the middle of the street, please just tell me that the girl is not hurt."
Timeline: Oxon Hill Red Roof Inn
According to court documents, Khalil Tatum, his wife Andrea, and three others checked into the Oxon Hill Red Roof Inn just after 10 p.m. on March 19. – Relisha Rudd was not with the group.
The three people with the Tatums told police that they left him and Andrea alone in the room just before midnight. One of the three then came back just before 6 a.m. the next morning to pick up Khalil, and he saw Andrea Tatum lying face down on the bed in the room – but Tatum would not let him enter.
The man then drove Kahlil Tatum to the Southern Avenue Metro station and dropped him off. Again, Tatum was alone and Rudd was not with him.
That was the last confirmed contact with Tatum – March 20 at about 6 a.m.
By this time, police had issued an Amber Alert for the missing girl with photos of Kahlil Tatum’s two cars. By 8 a.m., someone already reported to D.C. Police that the cars were at the hotel. Responding officers found them, as well as Andrea Tatum dead in Room 132. She had been shot in the head.
The court document concludes with a claim attributed to Andrea Tatum’s daughter that the couple had marital problems and that Andrea was planning to leave Kahlil. There is no mention of Relisha Rudd. Even though D.C. Police now call the hunt for Relisha a “recovery operation” for Prince George’s County Police, this remains an open murder case.
"We're now one week into what is, in effect, a manhunt for a killer; we're very hopeful that when we find him we'll also find that little girl," said Julie Parker, spokesperson with P.G. County Police.
Timeline: Amber Alert
"Our Amber Alert went through system as far north as Pennyslvania and as far south as Florida,” said D.C. Chief Lanier recently. She maintains that D.C. Police put out an Amber Alert from the mid-Atlantic to the tip of Florida in an effort to find the missing girl.
But it was only in D.C. that the alert prompted alerts on freeway signs, cell phones, and on local media.
The state law enforcement agencies responsible for issuing Amber Alerts in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida, all tell ABC7 News that there were no requests from D.C. to issue an Amber Alert.
West Virginia’s State Police spokesman told us that he wasn’t even familiar with the case. And a check of the Florida Amber Alert page on Wednesday shows no Amber Alerts, and does not even list Rudd on the missing children’s page.
Maryland State Police issued two critical missing alerts last Thursday, but could not issue an Amber Alert unless MPD specifically asked for it:
"We just did not receive the request to issue the Amber Alert," said spokesperson Greg Shipley.
Virginia State Police say they offered assistance and sent the paperwork needed to prompt an Amber Alert to D.C. Police last Friday – the day after D.C.’s Amber Alert was first issued – but no one reportedly responded to that.
On Wednesday, D.C. Deputy Mayor Paul Quander defended the District’s handling of the Rudd search: “We are going to use this as a learning opportunity for everyone in the region, but the responsibility that the District had to get this information out, to get it out promptly -- that's what we did."
The District did sent multiple updates to law enforcement. Between last Thursday and Tuesday, surrounding states received notice of the Amber Alert in D.C. and a regional “Be on the Look Out” or BOLO with Tatum and Rudd’s descriptions.
Though that BOLO was widely shared along the East Coast, it was still not an Amber Alert and did not prompt alerts on freeway signs, cell phones, or local media outside of the District.
A Pennsylvania State Police spokesman says he does not think an Amber Alert request was ever made. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s Amber Alert Coordinator Nona Best says no request was received from D.C. police, but the state police received the National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children alert about the alert on Tuesday.
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s spokesman Thom Berry says his agency received a “regional BOLO” from Maryland State Police on Thursday 3/20 with a description of the suspect and the girl, but no request for an Amber Alert and no direct requests from MPD.
It was only on Wednesday that the state of Georgia issued their own Amber Alert.