The bizarre case of a missing 8-year-old D.C. girl took another strange turn Monday, when police searching a vast park for clues to her whereabouts instead discovered the remains of the man wanted in connection with her disappearance.
Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said the man found dead of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the area of the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens has been tentatively identified as 51-year-old Kahlil Tatum. The chief would not elaborate on the discovery, but said there was much evidence to be processed from the scene.
“Let’s just say that we’re pretty comfortable that this is a suicide case,” Chief Lanier said.
Mr. Tatum was the last person with whom Relisha Rudd was seen before the girl disappeared on March 1. A janitor at the homeless shelter where the girl lived with her family, he had been asked to care for the girl by her mother in late February.
Police began investigating Relisha’s disappearance on March 19, after authorities reported she missed more than 30 days of school.
After a search that spanned the East Coast, investigators descended on the 700-acre Northeast D.C. park on Thursday. Information led them to believe Mr. Tatum had purchased a carton of 42-gallon garbage bags and had gone to the area the day after Relisha was last seen. Bad weather suspended efforts over the weekend, but reports surfaced early Monday afternoon that a body had been found in the search area.
Initial speculation that it could be the missing child quickly gave way to reports that the victim was an adult male.
Mr. Tatum, 51, had been missing since his wife, Andrea Tatum, was found fatally shot in an Oxon Hill motel on March 20. Police from Prince George’s County, where Mr. Tatum had been charged with his wife’s killing, also gathered at the park Monday.
Mr. Tatum’s death brings police no closer to finding out what happened to Relisha, and Chief Lanier said officers will remain in the park for the time being as they continue to search for any sign of the girl.
“Our work continues. We still have a lot to do, and we are still here for the reason we came here to begin with — and that is to look for Relisha,” she said.