On March 20, police in Washington issued an Amber Alert for missing 8-year-old Relisha Rudd, alerting residents that the girl could be traveling with a suspected abductor.
Washington police said they asked law enforcement agencies across the region to extend the alert. But Maryland officials say they never got the request, though some of the initial search for the girl centered in neighboring Prince George's County.
"The bottom line is this: The Maryland State Police have never been asked to issue an Amber Alert in this case," said spokesman Gregory M. Shipley.
Washington police said last week that they believe Relisha may have been killed by her suspected abductor, Kahlil Malik Tatum, 51, but have not given up hope that the girl will be found.
Spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said Washington police asked the district's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency to send out an alert about Relisha through a communications system that reaches law enforcement and emergency management agencies around the region.
Maryland State Police should have been included in that group, Crump said.
"Most jurisdictions posted the information from our Amber Alert on their highway signs and the story was covered by their news media, as evidenced by some of the tips that were received from as far away as Chesterfield," Crump said.
Shipley expressed frustration that Washington police continue to insist that they sent a request for an alert to be activated in Maryland. He said a state police official was at the scene of the murder of Andrea Tatum, Kahlil Tatum's wife, and asked Washington police if they needed an Amber Alert in Maryland but was told one was not needed.
Washington police should have reached out directly, he said.
"They knew who to call," Shipley said. "This isn't the case where somebody in the state police got a call or an email and said, 'I'm not going to deal with that.'"
Shipley said state police activated a request for Maryland troopers to be on the lookout for Relisha and Tatum and have been offering other assistance in the investigation.
Maryland State Police have received 118 requests for Amber Alerts since the program began in 2002, Shipley said; officials approved 34. Shipley said a request must meet certain criteria: It must be for an abducted child at risk of imminent harm or death, and police must have information on a possible vehicle to track.
"The program is effective because it's used minimally," Shipley said.
Crump acknowledged that the case did not meet Amber Alert criteria.
"In the case of Relisha Rudd, we didn't have an abduction and the last time she was seen was a few weeks prior to that when her mother gave Mr. Tatum permission to take Relisha," she said." We put out an Amber Alert in D.C., in spite of this case not meeting the criteria."
About 14,000 children are reported missing in Maryland annually, Shipley said, but most are runaways and return.
An Amber Alert was most recently activated in Maryland in early March for Caitlyn Virts, 11, who was found unharmed with her father in South Carolina. Officials credited the alert for her safe return.