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Lanier Describes Search For Missing 8-Year-Old As 'Recovery Operation'

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This undated photo provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows Relisha Tenau Rudd. On Monday, March 24, 2014, authorities released more photos of Relisha, 8, who was reported missing in Washington last week, and a man who may be with her, 51-year-old Kahlil Malik Tatum. Police in Prince George's County, Md., obtained a warrant on Friday charging Tatum with murder in the death of his wife, whose body was found in an Oxon Hill, Md., motel room.
(AP Photo/FBI)
This undated photo provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows Relisha Tenau Rudd. On Monday, March 24, 2014, authorities released more photos of Relisha, 8, who was reported missing in Washington last week, and a man who may be with her, 51-year-old Kahlil Malik Tatum. Police in Prince George's County, Md., obtained a warrant on Friday charging Tatum with murder in the death of his wife, whose body was found in an Oxon Hill, Md., motel room.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier on Thursday described the search for missing 8-year-old Relisha Rudd as a "recovery operation," raising the specter that she has been killed by Kahlil Tatum, the last man seen with her over a month ago.

During a press conference at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, where the FBI started searching on Thursday morning, Lanier said that Tatum, a former janitor at the homeless shelter where Rudd and her family lived, was last seen with her in early March. Shortly thereafter, Lanier said he purchased a box of 42-gallon black contractor bags and spent time in the park in Northeast D.C.

Lanier said Tatum continued to go to work, and was seen in several locations after March 2, but he was not again seen with Relisha.

"Relisha was not present with him in any additional sightings, he was sighted, went back to work, and was sighted numerous times between the 2nd and the 20th, and in none of those sightings was Relisha with him," she said.

Police searched the area all day, using cadaver dogs and helicopters. Lanier said the search would continue until the entire area is covered. Meanwhile, police and the FBI continue to search for Tatum. Lanier said there is no evidence that he has traveled outside the D.C. area.

Across the street, neighbors watched from their porches. Sterling Carson noted the park's rolling hills hide lots of secluded areas. "It's woods way back up in behind, and it's woods way down this side, woods all up this side. Anybody could have did anything," he said.

But it's almost always peaceful here, said neighbor Gary Williamson. "You have a few kids go over there and play, but other than that, nothing out of the unusual, so I'm going to have to keep my eyes open a little bit more now though," he said.

In the press conference, Lanier seemed to open the door to the possibility that Relisha was dead. "We're not making any assumptions, but I think that it would be prudent for us now, at this point, and this is a very large area, search this area very well. We cannot ignore the possibility that he may have killed her," she said.

Lanier said the priority is finding Relisha, but the search for Tatum continues, up and down the east coast. Lanier says there's no evidence he has left the D.C. area.

Tatum has been charged with murdering his wife and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

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