WASHINGTON (AP) — The body of a man found dead in a park of an apparent suicide has been positively identified as that of a murder suspect who was the last person seen with a missing 8-year-old girl, police said Tuesday.
The man found dead Monday with an apparent gunshot wound was identified as Kahlil Tatum, 51, of Washington, police said. Tatum was a janitor at the city homeless shelter where Relisha Rudd had been living with her family. Police continued on Tuesday to search the park for Relisha.
Tatum’s death appears to be a suicide and the discovery of his body was a shock for police because they were focused on finding Relisha, Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier said Monday. Lanier said at an afternoon press conference Tuesday that it appears Tatum’s body had been in the park for at least 36 hours but possibly several days.
Police began searching for Relisha in the 700-acre Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens last week 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 that Lanier said could be finished by the close of the day Wednesday or at some point Thursday.
Relisha was last seen 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 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 trash bags, and he was seen that day in the area of the park, in the northeastern sector of the capital.