It has been eight years on March 1, 2014, since an official report indicated that a District youth, Relisha Tenau Rudd, had disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
Then just eight years old, she remains missing. But activists dedicated to finding missing children, in collaboration with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, remain committed to resolving the case.
On the anniversary of her reported disappearance, several people gathered at the intersection of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road in Northeast to distribute flyers bearing Relisha’s photo along with a computer-generated image of how she may now look to passersby and to those in their cars.
Henderson Long, who leads D.C.’s Missing Voice, an organization focusing on finding missing children, said the time has come for Relisha to be found.
“If she is alive, she would be 17 and we’re here to solve the case of disappearance,” Long said. “Somebody out there knows something. These cases are tough but you never give up.”
Relisha first went missing in late February 2014. She had been living in the D.C. General Shelter with her mother, Shamika Young, when she became friends with the janitor Khalil Tatum, a former felon.
While documents indicate she stopped attending school in February, police would not be notified of her absence until 18 days later.
Long said a $50,000 award exists for anyone who provides information that leads to the whereabouts of Relisha. When asked by the Informer about where Relisha’s mother fits into efforts to find her daughter, Long said she has not been an active participant in the search.
Blaq Rose, well known in the District and throughout the nation for the leadership she has provided with her organization, the Blaq Rose Garden Missing & Murdered Advocacy Center, has been interested in the case since it became public.
“I have been out here looking for her since 2015,” she said. “As a native of Southeast D.C., I know how important it is to find missing children. I advocate not only for Relisha’s case but for many others, too. I have also distributed flyers door-to-door about her. I am out here handing them out because I want to be a voice for the voiceless and I want to keep her story alive.”
Blaq Rose believes if Relisha had been another race, her case would have already been resolved.
“It has been my experience that Black children’s cases don’t get the attention they deserve,” she said.
Phocuz Phil, a radio and podcast personality, has also taken up the cause of finding Relisha.
“What this case needs is closure,” he said. “By keeping her name alive, and we are doing that by handing out flyers, we can move on from this.”
Pamela Wheeler-Taylor, who serves as the commander of the Youth and Family Service of the D.C. Police Department, said they have not given up hope.
“At this time, we have no leads but this is still an open case,” she said. “We have had a lot of participation from the community on this case and we are encouraged by that.”
Dana White, an investigator for DC Missing Kids/Children, said she has experiences dealing with missing children on a personal level.
“I am a mom,” she said. “I have been there. There is a lot to be done. There are people dealing with mental health problems and homelessness and they need help. We need the right people from the mayor to community leaders to step up and find our missing children.”
“But the parents also need to step up. I have a 10-year-old daughter and I don’t want anything to happen to her. I keep tabs on her. I don’t understand parents who don’t know where their child is,” White said.