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Suspected abductor posed as missing girl's doctor

Thursday - 3/27/2014, 12:48pm  ET

relisha.jpg
Relisha Rudd was last seen in February. (Courtesy Prince George's County Police)

WASHINGTON -- -- The search for a missing 8-year-old girl has been complicated by deception and possible communication gaps in the region.

D.C. officials said Wednesday Kahlil Malik Tatum - the man investigators believe abducted Relisha Rudd - had posed as her doctor.

The girl's mother and grandmother affirmed that story, the sources said.

Acting like a doctor, Tatum told the school Rudd was sick. For confirmation, the school asked him to leave paperwork with the homeless shelter where the family stayed.

Rudd's last known sighting was March 7. A teacher at Payne Elementary saw the young girl when she arrived to pick up her younger brothers.

The school believed she was ill.

"Our understanding is that the mother or the grandmother gave the school the name of the {phony) doctor," says BB Otero, deputy mayor for Health and Human Services.

"He assured the school that the child had been ill," she says.

That confirmation with details came in a phone conversation, officials say.

As such, Rudd's subsequent absence from school didn't raise alarms because she was reported as being out sick and her brothers continued to go to class.

The break through, officials say, came March 19 when a social worker went to the shelter and asked about a "Dr. Tatum."

No such person exists, came the response.

That sent up a red flag and quickly turned to a search for the young girl.

But the girl's mother pushed back against issuing an Amber alert for her, according to officials.

The District ultimately issued an Amber alert after Tatum's wife was found murdered in a Prince George's County motel.

While the search continues, D.C. Mayor Vince Gray and other administration officials addressed potential gaps in the region's handling of the Amber alert.

The District did pass on information to jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia. Still, those states do not have active Amber Alerts posted.

"I think it's an internal issue that the states are going to have to look at," says Paul Quander, D.C.'s deputy mayor for public safety. "We're going to use this as a learning opportunity for everyone in the region."

FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett says Tatum is believed to have ties to the Atlanta area and may be traveling there.

Anyone who finds or spots Relisha or Tatum is asked to call 911 or the Command Information Center at 202-727-9099 or 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).

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