Police continued to search a sprawling park in Washington, D.C., for 8-year-old Relisha Tenau Rudd, saying they could not rule any possibility in the investigation that is now focused on a possible abductor wanted for the murder of his wife, CNN reports.
Detectives began searching the aquatic gardens area of Kenilworth Park on Thursday after receiving a tip that a man, identified as Kahlil Malik Tatum, 51, was seen there sometime after the last reported sighting of Rudd on March 1, the report says.
“We’re not making any assumptions, but I think it’d be prudent for us at this time to make sure we’ve searched—and this is a very large area—searched this area very well,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said, according to CNN. “We cannot ignore the possibility that he may have killed her.”
Meanwhile, the girl’s mother, Shamika Young, told NBC News 4 she believes her daughter is still alive.
“That’s not a thought that I can have in my head right now,” she said. “The thought that’s in my head is praying and staying strong and having faith that my daughter returns home safely and unharmed.”
But Lanier revealed during a news conference that investigators had learned that Tatum purchased, among other items, a carton of black 42-gallon, self-tie contractor trash bags in the District of Columbia. “Not long after that purchase, Mr. Tatum was in the area of the aquatic gardens for a period of time,” she said.
After the child was last seen, Lanier said, Tatum continued to go to work and was spotted around the city on several occasions between March 2 and March 20. She said Rudd was not with Tatum in any of those sightings.
Tatum worked as a janitor at the shelter where Rudd and her family had been staying and appears to have had permission to be with the child. Police also said Relisha’s mother knew she was with Tatum but did not report the girl as missing. Young, however, told NBC News 4’s Shomari Stone Thursday that she did not leave her daughter with Tatum.
“I wasn’t under the impression she was missing. I thought she was at my sister’s house,” Young said. “I didn’t want to lose my other three kids. That’s why I didn’t call the police.”
But alarm bells were set off when Tatum’s wife, Andrea Denise Tatum, 51, was found dead at a suburban Maryland motel last week and the child went missing. Tatum has not been seen since March 20, the report said.