Relisha Rudd case, unsolved disappearance of a child

Relisha Rudd, disappeared in March 2014. The girl lived in a shelter with her mother and brothers and had a strange relationship with the janitor of the place.

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Relisha lived in Washington DC with her mother, stepfather and two other brothers. At the time of her disappearance, the girl was 8 years old. Known to be a happy and kind child, Relisha loved going to school, was very involved in extracurricular activities, and was described as a very intelligent child by her teachers.

Despite this, the child’s family life was not easy at all. Along with her mother, Shamika Young, and brothers, Relisha was evicted from her home at least three times for not being able to pay the rent.

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People who knew her, said the girl was often seen in dirty clothes, hungry and often even injured. The guardianship council had already been called at least twice, but nothing was ever done. And there are rumors that Shamika was a drug user and extremely neglectful of her children.

Living in DC General Shelter

After several eviction orders, and with no money even for food, Shamika and her children moved into a local shelter. The institution was known for frequenting drug users, neglecting episodes of violence, and having no control over the residents.

Relisha fazia de tudo para passar o maior tempo possível fora de casa. A garota, que sonhava em Relisha did everything she could to spend as much time away from home as possible. The girl, who dreamed of being a model, even pretended an asthmatic symptom to stay longer in the house of Ashley (her aunt on the mother’s side).

The aunt, on the other hand, did not have better financial conditions but had a house and offered love to the girl and her brothers.

Khalil Tatum, janitor and ex-convict

Khalil Tatum, 51, was the janitor of the DC General Shelter. He was well-liked by everyone, charismatic and cheerful, he had a good relationship with everyone who lived there.

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The man initially began a friendship with Shamika, and soon after became close to her children and especially to Relisha.

The two spent a lot of time together, he took her to the mall, bought clothes and toys and once the girl spent three weeks at him house. This fact shocks, because the mother didn’t even call to check if her daughter was ok.

As time went by, Tatum became closer and closer to the girl, he was even introduced by Shamika, to her aunt and grandmother as “Relisha’s godfather”.

“Dr. Khalil Tatum” and Relisha’s absence from school

In March 2014, Relisha, who loved going to school, started missing several days in a row without any excuse. The school contacted the mother, who said that the girl was in treatment with a doctor named “Dr. Tatum”.

After the school’s insistence, Shamika gave the phone number of the doctor, reaffirming that everything was fine.

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Initially the school believed the mother’s version, but as the days passed and the student’s absences, the school board decided to call the number provided.

On March 10, the school makes contact with the “Dr.” Tatum, he identifies himself as a doctor and says Relisha is at the end of a neurological treatment and will soon return to school activities. The school then asked documents prooving it to be sent, to justify the faults.

The man agreed to send, but these documents were never sent.

After the tenth day of absence, the school notifies the guardianship council, which decides to schedule a meeting with the doctor, but without success.

On March 19, social workers visit the shelter in search of Relisha. Collecting information from the residents, the guardianship council discovers Dr. Tatum is in fact Khalil Tatum, the janitor.

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The police were called. Shamika gave a statement saying Relisha was traveling with Tatum on a medical conference and again everything was fine. By that time, police had already raised Khalil’s past, arrested twice for robbery, theft and break-in.

In one of the times he was in prison, he served 10 years.

Reported disappearance and start of investigation

Police searches revealed Tatum and Rudd were caught on camera walking down a hallway at a Holiday Inn Express in Northeast, Washington, DC on February 26

And footage on March 1 showed her walking with Tatum to a hotel room. The March 1 footage proved to be the last proof that Relisha was still alive. 

Andrea Tatums, wife found dead

Tatum’s wife, Andrea, was found shot in the head at a motel in Prince George’s County, Maryland, in the same day Relisha was reported missing (March 20). Surveillance tapes showed Kahlil and Andrea Tatum entering the hotel room the night before. 

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Kahlil Tatum was last seen on March 2, a day after Rudd last seen, while buying a shovel, lime, and 42-gallon trash bags

The police obtained an arrest warrant for Kahlil Tatum for the murder of his wife. But on March 31, Tatum’s body was found in a shed in Kenilworth Park (a place where he was often seen walking with Relisha), probably his death was a suicide, with the same gun that killed his wife. 

Steve Wilkos, the extremely sensationalist American TV

In October 2017, Relisha’s mother, Shamika Young; her stepfather, Antonio Wheeler; and her grandmother, Melissa Young, appeared on The Steve Wilkos Show. In polygraph tests, they are asked “Did you participate in any way in Relisha’s disappearance?” .

Both stepfather Antonio and grandmother Melissa answer “No” , and the polygraph results confirm that they were telling the truth. 

Relisha’s mother, Shamika, refuses to take the polygraph test.

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Theories

There are a limited number of theories for what happened to Rudd, because Tatum’s suicide occurred shortly after the girl’s disappearance.

Authorities generally believe Relisha was murdered by Tatum or sold to sex traffickers. But the sex trafficking theory was dismissed by DC Metropolitan Police Detectives. 

In an interview to The Washington Post , an officer suspected Tatum had sexually exploited the girl and possibly others did the same, and may have killed his wife because she found out about him activities. 

Other theories are that Ricky Sheridan Lyles, who is Tatum’s brother-in-law, may have participated in the crimes. Since Shamika Young stated on The Steve Wilkos Show that Tatum was shot twice. 

Lyles foi questionado, mas eles o descartaram como não sendo um pessoa de interesse.

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The case remains unsolved at the present moment.

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Juliane Cunha

Brazilian, 27 years old, working in the health field. I love writing and I also love criminal cases, nothing better than combining business with pleasure. Follow me on Instagram @julianesantt | @casocriminal_