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In Search For Missing 8-Year-Old, A Grim Turn

NPR icon by Gene Demby
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Washington, D.C. police chief Cathy L. Lanier said Thursday the search for Relisha Rudd, a missing eight-year-old girl, "may be best described as a recovery operation." Lanier's comments suggest authorities fear she is no longer alive.

Earlier this week, the FBI released a Feb. 26 surveillance video showing Relisha and Tatum in the hallway of a Washington, D.C., hotel. Neither one has been seen since.

Relisha went missing last month from a Washington homeless shelter where her family lived. Shamika Young, the girl's mother, says she left her daughter in the care of Kahlil Malik Tatum, a 51-year-old man who worked as a janitor at the shelter.

Officials at Relisha's school contacted Young after the girl missed more than 30 days of school. The mother told school officials her daughter was out sick and the absences had been excused by a "Dr Tatum."

A counselor at the school referred the case to a social worker at the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency. The social worker arranged to meet "Dr. Tatum" at the homeless shelter and discovers the doctor is a janitor. That same day, Mar. 19, local police initiated a missing-person investigation when Young cannot account for her daughter's whereabouts.

Tatum's wife, Andrea Tatum, was found dead in a hotel room the following morning and police then launched a manhunt spanning several states.

USA Today reported earlier this week that the AMBER Alert, which blasts out to mobile phones and pre-empts television and radio broadcasts when a child goes missing, never went out in nearby states during the early days of the investigation, although local police insist that it did. State police in Virginia and Maryland told the paper they were never asked by the Washington, D.C., police to issue the alert.

Young has repeatedly said that she last spoke to her daughter by cellphone on March 17. She told WTTG-TV her other children have been removed from her custody.

The Washington Post reported "a grand jury has been empaneled to investigate possible obstruction of justice charges against [Young]."

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