Advocates Believe Relisha Rudd May Still be Alive

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by Linda Poulson

One year after the disappearance of a then-eight-year-old girl from a Washington, D.C. homeless shelter, supporters believe the girl may still be alive.

Relisha Rudd was last seen alive on March 1, 2014 in the company of 51-year-old Khalil Tatum, a janitor at D.C.General, the homeless shelter at which Rudd and her family lived. Tatum and Rudd were spotted on surveillance video at a motel in Northeast D.C.

According to Washington, D.C. NBC affiliate WRC-TV, police believe Tatum kidnapped Rudd. Tatum was also a suspect in the death of his wife, Andrea, who was found dead weeks after Rudd’s disappearance; family members have said they believe she was killed because she knew Tatum had taken Rudd. Tatum himself committed suicide a short time later.

However, suspicion has also focused on Shamika Young, Rudd’s mother, and Young’s boyfriend Antonio Wheeler. Rudd may have been missing for weeks before her disappearance was reported, and police have said Young was aware that her daughter was in Tatum’s company, a claim Young refutes.

Among those who believe that Rudd’s mother may possess information about the girl’s disappearance is Derrica Wilson, a former northern Virginia law enforcement officer who has volunteered her expertise in the case. Wilson has said she believes Rudd was a victim of human trafficking.

“I think the mother knows something more than what she’s said….what was the actual motive,” Wilson said.

The search for Rudd also spawned a radio show. “The Finding Relisha Radio Show” was created by another volunteer, Keith Warren, on Blog Talk Radio and boasted loyal following, some of whom believed Young should be jailed for neglect.

Wilson is assisting the Metropolitan Police Department in the search for Rudd, and has worked to generate public awareness about the case. As the one-year anniversary of Rudd’s disappearance approached, more than 7,000 flyers were passed out to citizens in cars, on the street and in designated areas.

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