Eight-year-old Relisha Rudd is a missing child from Washington, D.C. and has not been found since her disappearance in February 2014. She was last physically seen in the D.C. General Shelter for Families in the 1900 block of Massachusetts Avenue SE, Washington, D.C with her mother Shamika Young and stepfather Antonio Wheeler. Relisha had stopped attending Payne Elementary School and was not reported missing to police for a month after her disappearance until her school counsellor filed a missing person's report. The last footage of her seen alive was on March 1, 2014, where she was led to a room in Days Inn on New York Avenue, D.C. by 51-year-old janitor Kahlil Tatum (deceased).
Relisha was befriended by 51-year-old janitor Khalil Tatum, a former felon with a criminal record of burglary, larceny and breaking-and-entering who was imprisoned from 1993-2003 and 2004-2011. He was hired as a shelter janitor by the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, a contractor which operated the D.C. General Shelter and other city homeless programs. Tatum was known for inappropriately attempting to befriend shelter residents, paying particular attention to young girls. He was known to even offer money to the young girls in front of their mothers and shelter staff.
Relisha was assumed to be mistreated at home, often arriving to school with dirty clothes and unkempt appearances and also avoided going home. There were multiple reports made to the D.C. Child and Family Services of Relisha and her siblings being neglected including medical, food, personal care, left alone and living in a filthy home. She may have also been physically abused.
Tatum befriended Relisha's mother Shamika by purchasing Relisha a tablet computer and taking her to see Disney on Ice. Relatives have also said that Tatum frequently gave her other gifts and took her on other outings including the movies and mall. She referred to Tatum as her "godfather". Eventually, Shamika allowed Tatum to take Relisha overnight to stay with him and his grandmother.
Relisha stopped attending school in February 2014. On March 13, 2014, a counsellor from Payne Elementary School alerted D.C. Child and Family Services of Relisha's absence and her concern of educational neglect. Officials told the counsellor that her mother provided a note stating she was having health problems and was in the care of "Dr. Tatum". The school counsellor contacted Tatum at the number provided and attempted to arrange a meeting at the shelter, but he did not show. The counsellor discovered that Tatum was a janitor at the shelter and that he had clocked-out early the same day he signed Relisha out. The counselor then called the authorities.
The Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia launched a missing person's case on March 19, 2014. The investigation revealed two sets of camera footage: One had been found of Tatum and Relisha walking down a hallway in a Holiday Inn Express in Northeast, Washington D.C. on February 26, 2014, the other showed the two walking to a room in a Days Inn on New York Avenue in Washington D.C. on March 1, 2014.
On March 20, 2014, the day after Relisha's case was launched, Tatum's wife Andrea was found shot in the head in a motel in Prince George's County, Maryland. Surveillance footage showed Kahlil and Andrea entering the hotel room the previous night. Kahlil Tatum was last seen March 2, 2014 purchasing a shovel, lime and 42-gallon trash bags. D.C. police obtained an arrest warrant for Kahlil Tatum to investigate his wife's murder.
On April 1, 2014, Kahlil Tatum's deceased body was found in a shed in the area of Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens in Northeast, Washington D.C. The cause of death was apparent suicide, from the same gun that killed his wife.
In October 2016, an interview by Colbert King of a "senior law-enforcement official" in The Washington Post suggested the theory that Relisha was being taken advantage of by predators and involved in a child-sex ring. It is also speculated that Tatum's wife discovered this, providing motive to her murder.
On Tuesday July 11, 2017, the D.C. Police Department named July 11th 'National Relisha Rudd Remembrance Day'.
In October 2017, Relisha's family appeared on The Steve Wilkos Show. Family in attendance were Relisha's mother, Shamika Young; her stepfather, Antonio Wheeler; and her fraternal grandmother, Melissa Young. Antonio stated relatives believed Relisha was going to a pool party with Tatum's granddaughter. Shamika said that she believed Relisha to be at her sister's house along with her mother Melissa, hence why the report took so long. Antonio also stated he believes that Shamika and Melissa had something to do with Relisha's appearance, however he is seen showing off money and expensive items on his social media around the time Relisha went missing.
The appearance also involved Antonio and Melissa taking polygraph tests, in which they were asked "Did you participate in any way in the disappearance of Relisha?". Both answered No and the polygraph results confirmed they were telling the truth. Shamika, Relisha's mother, refused to take the polygraph test.
On February 29, 2020, an article by Emily Shapiro for ABC News revealed that the co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc., Natalie Wilson, believes that Relisha Rudd was involved with sex trafficking. It is speculated that Relisha's family sold her to Tatum to use in child sex rings.
The FBI is currently offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to Relisha Rudd's location and return.
The D.C. Police Department and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is appealing. If you have any information regarding Relisha Rudd's disappearance or whereabouts, please contact the D.C. Police Department on (202) 727-9099 or call 1-800-THE-LOST.
Description[edit | edit source]
Relisha Rudd is a Black female. She has brown hair and brown eyes. Relisha was born on October 29, 2005. At the time of her disappearance, she was 4' and approximately 70-80 pounds. Weeks prior to her disappearance, she was known to wear a purple Helly Hansen brand winter jacket and pink boots. Relatives say Relisha slept with a teddy bear named “Baby”. As of 2020, she would be fourteen years old.