Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier announced April 3 that the weeklong search for missing eight-year-old Relisha Rudd in Kenilworth Park in Northeast Washington, D.C., has ended.
“We came here expecting the worst, a grave site,” Lanier said. “We’re relieved that we did not find that . . . We’re always hopeful. Children are found years after they disappear.”
While the search was unsuccessful in finding Rudd or evidence of what might have happened to her, it did result in the discovery of the body of Rudd’s suspected abductor, Kahlil Malik Tatum. The search of the 700-acre park has been exceptionally thorough with police looking through trash bins, digging large holes and using flashlights to look into storm drains.
The search for Rudd has been described as a recovery operation, but many people disagree. For instance, although the search in Kenilworth Park has come to a close, different conclusions have been posited by other organizations investigating the case. The most recent speculation was by a National Missing Persons Organization called the Black and Missing Foundation. This organization believes Rudd’s disappearance is the result of a human trafficking network. WUSA 9 News reported that co-founder of the organization Derrica Wilson said, “I’m pulling at everything in me and there’s nothing in my gut that tells me we’re in a recovery operation. I feel that we’re searching for a live person.”
Wilson co-founded the Black and Missing Foundation with her sister Natalie Wilson to raise awareness and efforts in locating missing persons of color, a segment of the population far overlooked. For instance, according to the foundation in the last year more than 200,000 persons of color were reported missing. Compared to other cases, Relisha’s serves as an exception as it has gotten a great deal of media coverage, which many people believe is because she is so young.
“This case has really rocked me to the core,” Derrica Wilson told WUSA-9 News. “I personally feel that this little girl was sold. I think her mother sold her to Tatum and I think Tatum has sold her in this worldwide industry of trafficking.”
Wilson says that she believes the investigation needs to expand far beyond D.C. and incorporate more than just police. “She could be anywhere and we need to help find her,” Natalie Wilson said. “We would like the public to get involved. Again, somebody knows something.”