WASHINGTON - The family of Relisha Rudd is speaking out to FOX 5 after the latest attempt to find the missing D.C. girl ended without any answers. Police said new information in the case led them to search the National Arboretum.
Rudd vanished more than two years ago after she was last seen with Kahlil Tatum, a janitor who worked at the D.C. General homeless shelter where the girl and her family were staying.
Police believe Tatum killed the little girl before later killing himself. However, Rudd’s body has never been found.
The girl’s mother, Shamika Young, told us by phone that she is unaware of why police would want to search the National Arboretum and she did not know if Tatum ever spent time there with her daughter.
Relisha's grandmother, Melissa Young, said she was excited there was another search. Despite no findings in the search the past two days, she is still holding out hope.
“It's been two years, two long stressful years for grandma,” said the girl’s grandmother.
In the two years and one month since Relisha’s disappearance, her grandmother claims their family has been kept in the dark as to the investigation.
"I haven't talked to a detective or the authorities in two years,” she said. "I haven't talked to them since it first started.”
This week's two day search was the first search for the young girl in 2016. D.C. police would not publicly say what exactly brought investigators to area of the National Arboretum.
A total of 60 searchers, including the FBI as well as members of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children scoured sections of the park. Divers checked out an unspecific pond on the property and K-9s were along for the search. But it concluded Thursday afternoon turning up empty.
“From my understanding, they had already searched it, so I'm not understanding why they even went back, what led them back to that section over there,” said Relisha’s grandmother. “We were hollering about searching over there again. They had already searched there. We got to look other places.”
When we asked her why she wanted them to go back there to search, Melissa Young said, “Because I felt that they didn't do a good enough job with the search. That's my feeling.”
The last couple of years have been difficult for the family.
"We had to go through two birthdays without her,” said Rudd’s grandmother. “It's been tough.”
Since Relisha’s disappearance, her mother and grandmother have made amends. Together, they have also realized Relisha may never come back.
"Listening to what [D.C. Police Chief] Cathy Lanier said, it’s a possibility that she could be dead,” said Young. “At first, I wouldn’t accept it. I wasn’t trying to hear that. But now, I got to understand I have to come to a realization that they might find her deceased or they might find her alive."
On the heels of this search, two D.C. council members have proposed a bill known as the "Relisha Rudd Law," which would require parents to notify police that their underage child is missing.
Parents of missing children under 12 years old would have 24 hours to notify police since the parents knew of the disappearance. Parents of children between the ages of 13-18 would have 48 hours.
Police were notified by a school counselor nearly three weeks after Relisha Rudd was last seen.