WASHINGTON (WJZ) — One year ago, eight-year-old Relisha Rudd disappeared from a Washington DC homeless shelter. Now her parents are talking about their daughter’s disappearance as the search for the young girl continues.
Jessica Kartalija reports Relisha’s mom—who some blame for her disappearance—says she is turning her life around.
“We miss those beautiful days. Relisha brought everyone joy,” said Antonio Wheeler, Relisha’s stepfather.
“We sat up and talked about her because we miss her. I’m not the only one,” said Shamika Young, Relisha’s mother.
Relisha Rudd’s parents say they think about her all the time. Pictures on the wall remind them just how much.
Relisha vanished a year ago from DC General, the homeless shelter where she and her family were living. Police believe the shelter’s janitor, Khalil Tatum, kidnapped her. He was found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a nearby park. Relisha has never been found.
Her father feels incredible guilt.
“As a father, you are a protector and there are times that I failed to protect my own daughter. I know the term `living a nightmare,'” Wheeler said. “I’m living one right now. It’s a nightmare.”
While they anguish over their missing daughter, the family also think of their three young sons, taken away as a result of Relisha’s disappearance.
Now in their own apartment, Young believes they’ll find her daughter alive.
“I just hope somebody, anybody, runs into her and whoever got her just returns her,” she said.
Family and friends disagree.
“My belief system is that we are looking for a body. I have told Shameka this and that’s just what my focus is,” said family friend Brenda Brown.
“I personally feel like, you know, she is gone. It’s been so long and other kids have been missing since this happened but hers has been taking a whole year,” said a relative.
One year after she went missing, a prayer service offers hope to Relisha’s parents.
“There is nothing that I want more than to have her back,” Wheeler said.
Court records show Tatum may have been posing as a doctor to excuse Relisha from school. She missed 30 days of classes and hadn’t seen her mother in three weeks when she went missing.
Relisha’s mother and her boyfriend have said they didn’t call the police when she went missing because they didn’t have a phone.