A body found today in a Washington, D.C., park has been tentatively identified as a man suspected of kidnapping an 8-year-old homeless girl weeks ago, a case full of mystery and missed opportunities that has gripped the nation’s capitol.
Relisha Rudd was last seen weeks ago with a 51-year-old janitor, Kahlil Malik Tatum, who worked in the shelter her family called home. When the girl failed to show up at school, city authorities reached out to Rudd’s mother, who may have given Tatum initial permission to spend time with her daughter outside of the shelter, a law enforcement source said. There is still no sign of the girl.
After the case garnered significant media attention two weeks ago, Tatum’s wife was found dead in a motel outside Washington, and he has been charged with her murder.
For days, hundreds of police officers, firefighters and others have been scouring a 700-acre park for any sign of Rudd or her alleged kidnapper.
Lanier said the body found there today has been tentatively identified as Tatum, and “likely is a suicide.”
At a hastily-scheduled news conference outside the park, Lanier said authorities had yet to confirm the identity of the dead man but were “obviously” trying to determine if it’s Tatum’s body.
Last week, law enforcement agencies released surveillance video from inside a Washington hotel on Feb. 26. In the video, Tatum and Rudd can be seen walking down the hall of a Holiday Inn Express, both carrying plastic bags filled with unidentifiable items. Rudd is seen wearing a pair of pink boots and a purple Helly Hansen brand jacket with white stripes.
The FBI has offered a reward of $25,000 for information leading to Rudd’s return. Other agencies have also offered tens of thousands in rewards for information tied to the case.
Investigators are now trying to determine if information Rudd’s mother provided to authorities about her daughter’s whereabouts was inaccurate, the source said.
Lanier said the search for Rudd “will continue.”