Chief Lanier: 'We've found nothing that has helped us in our search for Relisha'
WASHINGTON (WJLA) - During a press conference held just after 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Police Chief Lanier announced: "We've found nothing that has helped us in our search for Relisha."
This news comes after confirmation that the body found Monday in Kenilworth Park has positively been identified as Kahlil Tatum.
Lanier continued to say that there are volunteers set up for the search area in the park for Wednesday, but should the day end with no more clues, the search will be considered complete at that particular site.
"We have no information that she has been killed at this point," said Lanier. "She could still be alive, that’s why we are still asking for the public’s help."
Former Police Officer Derrica Wilson, who heads up the Black and Missing Foundation, has been one of the volunteer searchers.
"I just don't feel Relisha is here at Kenilworth Park," she said.
Wilson believes that investigators must continue their search elsewhere:
"I believe Mr. Tatum has sold her. I believe she's alive...we need to be looking in other states. There's a lot of predators preying on these children. He was always giving money to these young girls, and now she turns up missing..."
Derrick Butler will also be back on Wednesday among the searchers; his sister Pamela disappeared without a trace in 2009.
"I know what this family is going through, and we just want to help them," he said. "Anything we can do to bring closure."
At a press conference held the evening prior at approximately 6:20 p.m., D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier had thanked volunteers who have helped in the search for Relisha Rudd.
She stated that the adult male body found had tentatively been identified as Khalil Tatum – as it is “consistent with his appearance.” Lanier also added that she was “pretty comfortable” in concluding that the death was a suicide. But Rudd still remained missing.
"We are still here for the reason we came here to begin with – to look for Relisha,” Lanier said. “The discovery was a shock for us.”
Earlier Monday, it was confirmed that the body of an adult male was found in Kenilworth Park and aquatic gardens in the "target area" of where authorities and volunteers have been searching for the missing 8-year-old girl.
"Looked like the officers were running back and forth and running in and out of the woods," said nearby resident, James Johnson, of the flurry of activity at the park.
Lanier explained that the 700-acre area had been the recent focus of multiple search efforts by air, and on the ground there were search dogs looking for Rudd and Tatum.
It was a search by foot that led to this most recent discovery, and now, residents and family members are fearful of the whereabouts of Relisha Rudd. If Tatum was dead, they ask, where is she?
"It is in God's hands now -- can't do nothing now but pray and hope for the best," said resident Kevin McBride.
"If it is him, where is Relisha? Where is Relisha? At where does he have Relisha?" questioned a frantic Ashley Young. "I still believe that baby girl is alive."
Sources told ABC7 that the male victim appeared to have been shot in the head, and that a gun was found in his lap. Lanier simply said the search for Relisha will continue:
"Right now the best I can tell you is the search is underway...And there is more work to be done and more searching to be done."
By nightfall on Monday, divers had wrapped up their search of the Anacostia River for the day, with police continuing to say little else about how Tatum was discovered.
But that didn’t stop about a hundred people coming together to march and pray for one thing:
"I just want to bring this little girl home, I want a happy ending so bad,” said Demika Robinson, who marched in the vigil.
Among those marching were Rudd’s grandmother, Melissa Young, and her step-grandmother, Belinda Wheeler.
"I just want her home. I don't how much longer I can hold up,” said Young.
Rudd's family reacted to the news that police have tentatively identified the body found at Kenilworth Park as Khalil Tatum.
"He killed himself without letting us know where she is,” said Young.
"I hate to even think of the worst, but come on, come on,” added Wheeler.
"I watched this baby grow from Head Start all the way up to the second grade,” said Rudd’s former cheerleading coach, Shannon Smith. She says she isn’t shedding any tears over today’s news:
"Why should I? I'm shedding tears for my baby that's not here. But him?! The big bad wolf is dead."
Many who came out Monday night personally know Rudd's family, but many others were simply mothers touched by the little girl's story.
"This has affected not just her family, but everybody," said Falon Harris. "I just pray to God that she comes home safely."
Rudd was last seen on March 1 with Kahlil Tatum, a janitor at the city homeless shelter where Relisha lived. After authorities began searching for the girl, police found Tatum's wife dead in a motel room in Oxon Hill, Md.
Authorities began searching Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens after they learned Tatum had spent time in the park on March 1 or 2 after purchasing large, industrial-sized trash bags.