At 8 years old, little Relisha Tenau Rudd had already seen more hardship than most people ever do. She was living in a Washington, D.C., homeless shelter with her mother. Relisha was clearly in a situation that was far from ideal. And reportedly when she disappeared, it wasn't until she didn't show up at school for several days that anyone reported it to police. Now police believe that little Relisha has been kidnapped by 51-year-old Kahlil Tatum, who worked as a janitor at the shelter.
Video surveillance from a local hotel showed Tatum walking down the hallway, holding the little girl's hand on February 26, the day she disappeared. And when police tracked Tatum's SUV to a hotel, they found his wife, Andrea Denise Tatum, shot to death. Tatum has been charged in that murder.
While Relisha's mother is devastated at her disappearance and says she "cries every night" for her return -- it's hard to know what exactly is going on here. Authorities say that Relisha's mom left her in the care of Tatum, the janitor, for at least a month.
Reportedly, the girl's mom knew Tatum prior to her disappearance -- but it's unclear how well or why she would be left in the man's care despite having a stepfather (who also lived at the shelter) and a grandmother.
And why did it take days for authorities to be alerted to her disappearance -- which was only noticed after she stopped attending school? Even if the family trusted Tatum to take care of their daughter -- wouldn't you at least check in with her during all that time?
What is clear is that this little girl was born into the crossroads of poverty and dysfunction -- and now she may be paying the ultimate price. Let's hope she comes home safely.
Police are asking anyone who may have seen Relisha or Tatum to call 202-727-9099 or 911.
What do you think happened?
Image via Police Handout