WASHINGTON (AP) — The body of a man found dead in a park of an apparent suicide Monday is believed to be that of a murder suspect who was the last person seen with a missing 8-year-old girl, police said.
The body has been tentatively identified as that of Kahlil Tatum, 51, a janitor at the city homeless shelter where 8-year-old Relisha Rudd had been living with her family, said Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier.
“It appears the person we found here today was, in fact, Mr. Tatum, and it does still appear at this point that this was a suicide,” Lanier told a news conference at the park. “This discovery was a shock for us.We were very focused on finding Relisha and that’s what we came here for. … We’re not finished. That search is continuing.”
Police had started searching for Relisha in the 700-acre Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens five days ago in an operation aimed at recovering a body, although Lanier said she had not given up hope that Relisha was alive. Hundreds of people, including divers, have participated in the search.
Relisha was last seen on March 1 in the company of Tatum, a janitor at the homeless shelter where she lived with her mother and brothers. Relisha’s mother had allowed her to spend time with Tatum, and her family did not report her missing.
Repeated absences from school led authorities to start looking for her on March 19. The following day, the body of Tatum’s wife was found in a motel in nearby Oxon Hill, Md., dead of a gunshot wound to the head. Kahlil Tatum has been charged in a warrant with murder.
On March 2, police said, Tatum purchased 42-gallon contractor trash bags and lime, and he was seen that day in the area of the park, located in the northeastern sector of the capital.