Remembering Relisha Rudd, missing Black girl from DC

Relisha Rudd and Khalil Tatum
Relisha Rudd and Khalil Tatum (Photo source: DC Metro Police)

Black missing girls have taken center stage on social media because of a viral tweet that was later proved to be inaccurate. It all centered on the city of Washington, D.C., and the fake story of 14 girls who went missing in a 24-hour period from one area. Even though that story was false, it raised awareness of the issue of missing Black girls. However, there is one little girl who should still remain in your minds, her name is Relisha Rudd and she went missing in 2014.

Relisha lived with her drug-addicted mother and two brothers at the D.C. General Shelter. The shelter itself is a former hospital that was converted into a shelter because of the serious issues of homeless families in the nation’s capitol. But according to residents, the facility is far from safe. Residents have to deal with vagrancy, drug users and a general atmosphere of unpleasantness, made even worse if you were a child like Relisha. With few resources and no real positive role models, Relisha was an easy target for shelter janitor Khalil Tatum. According to the residents, Tatum would break shelter rules by socially interacting with residents, while staff members did nothing. One resident, Yolanda Manning, was quoted as stating that Tatum tried to give her daughter money during a birthday party. Per Manning, “he would often give money to little girls and never to the boys.” This was all done in plain view of staff according to several residents. Tatum befriended Relisha’s mother, Shamika Young, and easily was able to get the child away from the shelter. He took her to see Disney on Ice, bought her a tablet computer and Young even allowed her daughter to spend the night away from the shelter allegedly with Tatum and his granddaughter.

Tatum exhibited all the classic signs of a predator but it went unnoticed or was ignored not only by staff at the shelter but also Relisha’s mother. But in February Relisha had not been to school in almost two weeks while she was with Tatum. When school officials attempted to find out why the child had not been to school in almost two weeks a disturbing deception took place. Young allegedly told the school that her daughter was sick and under the care of a physician. That’s when Relisha’s grandmother, Melissa Young, came to the school and presented a piece of paper with the name “Dr. Tatum” and a phone number. Young explained that her granddaughter suffered from intense headaches and seizures.  When the school called the number, a man whom they assumed was Tatum answered. The caller pretended to be a doctor and the school wanted written proof of Relisha’s treatment. In response, he told the school administrator to drop off the form at the D.C. General Shelter. The school official realized something was wrong and called the police.

Initially, her mother refused to allow an Amber Alert to be issued for her missing daughter. It was only after Tatum’s wife, Andrea Tatum, was found dead with a bullet to the head in a hotel room that the Amber Alert was issued. An intense search was launched for the Relisha and Tatum and during the manhunt images emerged of the pair in a hotel hallway from a security camera. In March 2014 Tatum was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic, in Washington, D.C. Tatum was spotted earlier purchasing heavy duty trash bags, a shovel and a bag of quick lime. This indicated to homicide investigators that Tatum had a “burial kit’’ and that Relisha might be dead. A few days’ later, police announced that the search for 8-year-old Relisha Rudd was being called a recovery operation and indicated the child might be dead.

To this day the case of Relisha Rudd is still open and there is no information on whether the child is alive, perhaps being trafficked, or lying in a grave. Relisha is just one of many missing Black girls in America.

 

Mo Barnes
Mo Barnes

Maurice "Mo" Barnes is a graduate of Morehouse College and Political Scientist based in Atlanta. Mo is also a Blues musician. He has been writing for Rolling Out since 2014. Whether it means walking through a bloody police shooting to help a family find justice or showing the multifaceted talent of the Black Diaspora I write the news.

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