It's been five years since the disappearance of Relisha Rudd. Rudd, a young Black girl from Washington D.C., was 8 years old when she vanished from one of the city's homeless shelters.
She was last seen with Kahlil Tatum, a janitor who worked at the shelter where she resided according to CNN. A day after Rudd went missing, he'd purchased 42-gallon trash bags. About a month later, Tatum and his wife Andrea Denise Tatum, were both found dead. Rudd's case remains unsolved and no charges have been made. The death of Andrea remains a mystery as well.
The disappearances and murders of Black and brown people seldom overtake the national news cycle. People like Rudd, Akia Eggleston, Alexis Murphy,
Asha Degree, Tremaine Michael Peek, Latisha Frazier and Ashanti Billie barely received national news attention when it was discovered that they were missing.
Coverage of their cases fall flat in comparison to the attention given to the disappearances of young white people like Elizabeth Smart and Natalee Ann Holloway.
Rudd has not been found, and no one has been charged for her disappearance, according to NBC News.
Unsolved cases like those of the young D.C. native are what inspired Virginia resident Candice Gaines to fill the gap.
The Black & Missing Foundation found that 230,302 minorities (Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Indian) were reported as missing in 2018.
Gaines, 28, is seeking to increase awareness around cases that often get overlooked. On April 1, Gaines launched the podcast Crime Noir. The true crime podcast dives deeply into little-known investigations and provides clarity on where these cases currently stand. In a short amount of time, Gaines' podcast has already received nearly 5,000 downloads.
"I felt compelled to tell the stories of missing and murdered Black people because our stories rarely hit national news," Gaines told Blavity.
Gaines graduated from Marymount University, where she studied forensic science, which she says helped spark her interest in criminal cases. The mission of Crime Noir is "to replace misinformation and speculation with a dedication to truth as well as rectify exclusion with the re-examination of cases all but forgotten and swept aside," a statement on Crime Noir's website reads.
Her podcast features cases such as the murder of Washington D.C. resident Latisha Frazier, who went missing in 2010 and was last seen leaving work reported The Charley Project. Gaines also discusses the case of Alexis Murphy who disappeared from Lovingston, Virginia in 2013.
In another episode, she talks about the disappearance of Tremaine Michael Peek, who on November 19, 2007, disappeared after he was heard having an argument with roommates. She also dives deep into the case of Marcus Wesson who was found guilty of nine counts of murder and 14 counts of rape and molestation, according to The New York Daily News. She also reexamines Rudd's vanishing.
Blavity spoke with Gaines to discuss the impact of her podcast, the true crime cases that haunt her the most, and the future of Crime Noir.
Blavity: What inspired this podcast and what is your mission?
Candice Gaines: What inspired my podcast was studying forensic science and getting to know how investigation techniques work. Missing people like Relisha Rudd and Asha Degree received nothing but a short blurb in the media. Crime Noir is changing that. Our stories are important and should be brought to the forefront.
Blavity: How do you choose which cases to feature, and what is the criteria?
Gaines: I chose all cases that the media overlooks. I also welcome suggestions from viewers. I spend a lot of time on the CharleyProject.org researching missing person cases. I also get inspiration from other true crime podcasts, such as Cold and 18 Days.
Blavity: Is there a specific criminal case that still haunts you?
Gaines: The disappearance of Relisha Rudd haunts me tremendously. She disappeared from Washington, D.C., on March 2014, while living in a homeless shelter. The disappearance haunted me because her mother didn't even report her missing. She was missing for 18 days before a school official reported her repeated absences.
The most haunting part of this to me is that the last person Rudd was seen alive with was Khalil Tatum. Tatum killed his wife, Andrea Tatum, and then himself. Why would an innocent man murder not only his wife but himself? Is it because police were closing in on him and he didn't want to admit that he possibly harmed Rudd? I also wonder how her mother never noticed she was missing, if she had noticed sooner could it have changed the course of the investigation. Could Rudd have been found?
Blavity: What sets this podcast apart from other true crime podcasts?
Gaines: Other true crime podcasts because most of them only cover high-profile cases. While I do include some more notable ones, I also cover the ones that no one has ever heard of before; the ones that didn't even get a mention on the news. My goal is to cover cases that didn't even make the local news.
Blavity: Do you ever speak with victims' families?
Gaines: I have spoken to a family member of a missing woman, Akia Eggleston, who disappeared on May 7, 2017. I had the pleasure of speaking to her aunt Sobrana Wilson, who gave me her blessing to do the episode. She also provided insight into what she thought happened. It was nice to connect with her. In the future, Crime Noir hopes to talk with more family members of missing, murdered, and unsolved cases.
Blavity: What has the reaction been to the podcast?
Gaines: Overwhelmingly positive! Shockingly, people respect what I'm doing. Listeners have told me that my work touches them. It's encouraging and keeps me wanting to continue because I believe our stories deserve to be highlighted. I welcome all feedback, but so far, I haven't had any negative responses.
Blavity: What's the long-term plan for Crime Noir? Within the next year, what do you hope to accomplish?
Gaines: Through Crime Noir, I hope that cases get solved and bring a heightened level of awareness to each investigation. I plan on taking Crime Noir to CrimeCon one year. Overall, I want people to want these cases to get solved. I want Crime Noir to be a staple true crime podcast.
Crime Noir is available to listen to on iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud here.