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D.C. Police: Search For 8-Year-Old Girl Now A ‘Recovery Operation’

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Derek Valcourt began working at WJZ in September 2002. His first major...
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WASHINGTON (WJZ) — The search for an eight-year-old girl missing for nearly a month continues in Washington D.C. Police there are combing through a massive park in northeast Washington for any signs of the little girl.

Derek Valcourt has more on what led investigators there.

What police know so far does not sound good. One day after eight-year-old Relisha Rudd was last seen alive, the man she was last seen with bought large trash bags and spent time at a D.C. park.

Could the body of eight-year-old Relisha Rudd have been disposed of somewhere in the wooded areas of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Park in northeast Washington?

That is the question that led D.C. police and their cadets to conduct an exhaustive search of the park Thursday–led there by information about the wanted man she was last seen with–51-year-old Kahlil Tatum

“We cannot ignore the possibility that he may have killed her,” D.C Police Chief Cathy Lanier said.

Rudd and Tatum, a homeless shelter janitor who had befriended the girl’s family, were last seen together March 1 on a hotel security camera video. Thursday, police announced that just one day later, Tatum was seen buying large contractor size trash bags and spent time in Kenilworth Aquatic Garden Park.

“Relisha has not been seen by anyone since March 1, yet Mr. Tatum continued to go to work and was seen in multiple locations throughout the District of Columbia between March 2 and March 20,” Lanier said.

Police say, on March 19, Tatum murdered his wife inside a Prince George’s County hotel room and has since fled, sparking a massive manhunt.

“It’s just real sad,” said Sharma Mungo, lives near search area.

Neighbors are stunned to learn about the search in the park. Many don’t understand why the little girl was allowed to go with Tatum at all.

“I hope that they do find the little girl and I hope that she’s fine. I mean, I pray for her. Been praying for her every day,” Mungo said.

Police say Relisha’s family did give them some confusing information at first. Investigators are looking into that, but for now, they remain focused on finding the little girl.

Though the chief called Thursday’s search a “recovery effort,” she says they have not given up hope they will find Relisha alive.

An Amber Alert for Relisha has been issued up and down the East Coast. There is a $70,000 reward for her safe return.

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