Candlelight flickered in the night at a vigil for 8 year-old Relisha Rudd, who vanished while in the care of a man who has been charged with murder.
Volunteers with the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, a nonprofit that offers recreational events at District shelters, organized the vigil to keep Relisha’s face in the public attention.
Police have issued an arrest warrant for Kahlil Malik Tatum after the body of his wife , 51 year-old Andrea Denise Tatum, was found in a Maryland motel room during a search related to Relisha’s disappearance.
Now, authorities have widened their search for Relisha and Kahlil Tatum, with cities as far as Richmond being notified of the missing child and suspect.
The police search for Relisha began March 20 with an Amber Alert that included a white 1976 GMC truck. The vehicle was found in a parking lot the next day without any sign of the girl or Kahlil Tatum.
Relisha was last seen on February 26 at the shelter in DC General Hospital where the little girl, her mother and stepfather had been staying for the past 18 months.
Police believe Relisha was in the care of Kahlil Tatum, a janitor at the shelter where Relisha and her family were staying, when she vanished.
Kahlil Tatum’s gifts to the shelter’s children, including a fish tank, a pet turtle and $20 bills were once appreciated by families staying at DC General. Now, in light of Relisha’s disappearance, they are adding to worries and suspicions at the shelter.
At the March 22 vigil, friends, family and shelter residents gave accounts of the 8-year-old they knew who liked to play with dolls. A volunteer with Homeless Children’s Playtime Project called Relisha a typical little girl.
Relisha’s stepdad choke back tears at the microphone.
“I just want my baby back, y’all,” he finally managed to say.
If you’ve seen Relisha Rudd, call police at 202-727-9099 or 911.