Note: As of this writing, eight-year-old Relisha Rudd is still missing and the body found in the Kenilworth park on March 31, 2014, is presumed that of her captor Kahlil Tatum; dead of apparent suicide.
The anger felt regarding the disappearance of eight-year-old Relisha Rudd is palpable from Washington D.C. where she was last seen to Maryland and every east coast state issued an Amber Alert on March 20. This is a case fraught with unanswered questions: why did the mother reportedly allow her daughter to spend time with Kahlil Tatum? Why did she and Relisha’s grandmother appear to be in collusion with Tatum to deceive school officials into thinking he was a doctor? Did officials activate the Amber Alert system promptly for Relisha?
According to various reports, Relisha was last seen with Tatum, a janitor at the Washington D.C. homeless shelter where the little girl lived with her mother Shamika Young and her little brothers. She had been missing time from school, some of it excused. However, by March 13 she had reportedly missed her 10th day of school, which flagged officials at the Payne Elementary School to summon Child Welfare Services.
Mother allowed daughter to spend time with Tatum
While some reports note that Relisha was last seen March 1, according to a Washington Post article, Relisha was last seen “in class March 5th and at the school March 7th.” Before that time however, Young, who referred to Tatum as Relisha’s “godfather” apparently allowed Tatum unsupervised access to her daughter. A surveillance video released by foxnews.com showed Tatum walking down a hallway reported to be located in the Holiday Inn Express, with Relisha in tow.
School officials believed “Dr. Tatum” was real
While Young initially referred to Tatum as Relisha’s godfather, she reportedly allowed a “Dr. Tatum” to verify Relisha’s absences from school. According to a foxnews.com report, Young and Relisha’s grandmother gave school officials Tatum’s contact information as Relisha’s doctor, information the school reportedly did not check for accuracy. By the time the child welfare authorities were summoned, Young had allowed Tatum numerous unsupervised visits with Relisha, an apparent violation of the homeless shelter rules.
Fear and anger for Relisha
In the midst of answering other confusing questions, the Baltimore Sun quoted Gregory M. Shipley, spokesperson for the Maryland State Police saying that the department had “never been asked to issue an Amber Alert in this case.” This report piggybacked questions of whether Young’s actions might have delayed officials in getting proper help for her daughter.
All of these questions have fired a simmering anger that the public has taken to the social networks – some people changing their Facebook profile pictures to a picture of Relisha, and others tweeting their outrage via #FindRelisha and #RelishaRudd hashtags. In D.C.’s 700-acre Kenilworth Park where the body “tentatively identified” by D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier on March 31 as “Tatum,” a host of community volunteers from the shelter where Relisha lived and the surrounding community have helped with searching for the little girl. Police Chief Lanier declared a continued search.