Relisha Rudd was last seen in hotel surveillance footage, walking with a man down the hallway of a motel in Washington, D.C. She was wearing untied boots and a blue striped jacket and appeared tired and unsmiling. On that day, she was with her alleged abductor, 51-year-old Kahil Tatum, a shelter janitor.
Surprisingly, her disappearance went unnoticed for at least 22 days. Tatum’s wife was found fatally shot in a hotel room on the day of Relisha’s disappearance.
On that day, she was seen with her alleged abductor, 51-year-old Kahil Tatum, a shelter janitor. Surprisingly, Relisha’s disappearance went unnoticed for at least 22 days. Rudd’s alleged captor’s wife was found fatally shot in a hotel room in Prince George’s County on the day she went missing.
Relisha was 8 years old when she went missing on March 1, 2014, just days after being seen on surveillance footage from the D.C. General Family Shelter where she lived with her family. Despite a $50,000 reward offered by the FBI for information leading to her recovery, she has never been found and no one has been charged in her disappearance. The shelter where her family was staying was closed in 2018 by Mayor Muriel Bowser. Her case remains open to this day.
Who was Relisha Rudd?
Relisha Rudd was an eight-year-old African-American girl living in the DC General shelter with her drug-addicted mother and two brothers. The shelter, a former hospital converted to house homeless families in the nation’s capital, was known to be unsafe with issues of vagrancy, drug use, and a generally unpleasant atmosphere, particularly for children like Relisha. With limited resources and few positive role models, Relisha became an easy target for shelter janitor Khalil Tatum. According to residents, Tatum would break shelter rules by interacting socially with residents while staff members turned a blind eye.
One resident reported that Tatum attempted to give her daughter money during a birthday party, and another local confirmed that ‘he would always give money to little girls and never to the boys.’ Tatum easily became friends with Relisha’s mother, Shamika Young, and Relisha became a convenient target for him. He would have no trouble removing the child from the shelter, bringing her gifts, taking her to see Disney on Ice, and even allowing her to spend the night away from the shelter with Tatum and his granddaughter.
Khalil Tatum was a predator, but no one seemed to care, not the shelter staff, not Relisha’s mother. Relisha had missed nearly two weeks of school in February 2014 while staying with Tatum and his granddaughter.
Even when school officials tried to figure out why Relisha hadn’t been to school in nearly two weeks, Young said she was sick and under the care of a doctor. At this point, Relisha’s grandmother Melissa Young went to school and handed over a piece of paper bearing the name “Dr. Tatum” and a phone number. Melissa explained that her granddaughter had severe headaches and seizures, and Shamika and Melissa thought they had solved the problem.
However, when the school called to confirm the doctor’s identity, a man they assumed was Tatum answered. When the school told him that they needed written proof of Relisha’s treatment, the man told the school administrator to drop off the form at the D.C. general Shelter. The school office detected a problem and called the police.
The disappearance of Relisha Rudd
Initially, Shamika refused to allow an Amber Alert to be issued for her missing daughter. However, the alert was issued after she learned of Tatum’s wife, Andrea Tatum, death in a hotel room from a bullet to the head.
The investigation revealed that on February 26th, Tatum and Rudd were caught on camera walking down a hallway in a Holiday Inn Express in Northeast Washington, D.C. On March 1st, they were seen walking together to a room in a Days Inn on New York Avenue in D.C. The footage from March 1st proved to be the final proof that Rudd was still alive.
An intensive search for Relisha and Tatum was launched, and during the search, hotel surveillance images of the pair emerged. Tatum was discovered dead in March 2014 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic. Tatum had earlier been spotted purchasing heavy-duty trash bags, a shovel, and a bag of quick lime.
All of these items indicated that Tatum had a burial kit and that Relisha was possibly deceased. A few days later, police announced that the search for Relisha Rudd, 8, had been renamed a recovery operation, and that the child might not be alive.
The search, however, continues; the case of Relisha Rudd remains unsolved, and there is no word on whether the child is alive or dead. Relisha is just one of many young girls who have gone missing in America. The case of Relisha Rudd received little coverage outside of the Washington, D.C. area, prompting criticism that her case is being overlooked due to her marginalization as a Black girl from a poor family.
In October 2017, Relisha Rudd’s mother, Shamika Young, her stepfather, Antonio Wheeler, and her grandmother, Melissa Young, appeared on The Steve Wilkos Show. During the show, they were all asked if they played any role in Relisha’s disappearance. Both Antonio, the stepfather, and Melissa, the grandmother, answered “No,” and the polygraph results confirmed that they were telling the truth. Shamika, Relisha’s mother, however, refused to take the polygraph test.
What happened to Relisha Rudd?
Despite an extensive search and investigation, the case of Relisha Rudd remains unsolved. Theories about her disappearance include that she was murdered by Tatum or sold to sex traffickers, however, authorities have ruled out the latter theory. Tatum’s predatory behavior and violent murder-suicide shortly after Rudd’s disappearance have led investigators to believe that he was sexually exploiting her and potentially pimping her out to others.
Tatum’s wife’s death may also have been a result of her discovering his activities. Another theory is that Tatum’s brother-in-law, Ricky Sheridan Lyles Sr., was involved and may have killed Tatum. However, Lyles was ruled out as a person of interest in the case. Relisha’s mother, Shamika Young, has appeared on The Steve Wilkos Show and took a polygraph test which confirmed that she was not involved in her daughter’s disappearance.