(Handout photo courtesy…)
The search for a missing 8-year-old D.C. girl and the man police believe she is with continued Monday as authorities posted a $25,000 reward and released new photos of the child and suspect in a hunt that now stretches from Pennsylvania to Richmond.
"We will follow every lead and every investigative tip that comes in," said D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. "No bit of information is too small. . . . Our primary goal right now is to find this little girl."
Relisha Rudd , who had lived with her mother at a homeless shelter at the old D.C. General Hospital, has been the subject of an intense search since Wednesday, when police first got involved. Her mother last saw Relisha about two weeks ago, when she allowed her daughter to leave with the shelter's janitor, Kahlil Tatum, 51.
Tatum is charged in an arrest warrant with the killing of his wife, Andrea Denise Tatum, whose body was found Thursday at a motel in Oxon Hill. Two vehicles linked to the couple were parked at the motel. Another vehicle that police say Tatum used after leaving the hotel, a white GMC truck, was found Thursday.
Pictures released by D.C. police and the FBI show Relisha playing. Another photo shows Tatum dressed in a white sleeveless T-shirt, tatoos on his left forearm and in sunglasses -- a different look than that described by shelter residents, who said the janitor often wore designer clothes and sometimes a suit and tie.
Lanier answered few questions at Monday's news conference, saying that she would only discuss issues that could help police find Relisha. Lanier would not comment on whether police have narrowed their search, but police in Richmond have said their officers were put on heightened alert.
The chief did address questions regarding an Amber Alert that was issued Thursday. Such alerts -- sent out by authorities to help find endangered children -- break into television and radio shows and flash messages on overhead highway signs and some electronic billboards. But days into the search, no such messages appeared in Maryland, including on the state's section of the Capital Beltway and the I-95 corridor, and only infrequently in parts of Northern Virginia.
Amber Alerts are issued only in certain circumstances, with evidence indicating the child has been abducted and is in danger, and typically include a description of a suspect who may be with the child, or the vehicle that person may be using. Lanier said police sought an Amber Alert before all the criteria were met because officers believed the matter to be urgent, even after the girl’s mother initially told police that she had approved of Tatum taking the child. A counselor who noted Relisha's extended absence from school first informed authorities, who then began investigating.
Lanier said D.C. police informed more than two dozen police agencies in Maryland and Virginia about the Amber Alert for Relisha, including state police offices. But officials in both agencies said they did not receive an official request addressed to the correct office. A spokeswoman for Virginia State Police said officials there e-mailed D.C. police twice to ask whether an Amber Alert should be put out but got no response.
Maryland State Police spokesman Gregory M. Shipley said a trooper with the department's child recovery unit responded to the Oxon Hill motel where Tatum's wife was found dead but was told that no assistance was needed. Shipley said a request for an Amber Alert never got through to the 24-hour duty-officer -- the person with authority to initiate an alert.
Lanier said several requests were made through Maryland's emergency alert system, called EMNet, used by the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. Spokesman Edward J. McDonough said his agency received an Amber Alert request at 6:44 a.m. Friday, through Virginia State Police, and that it was not put up because it didn’t come through proper Maryland State Police channels.
"We're probably going to review our protocols on a case like this," McDonough said.
Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report