It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to find a good true-crime podcast that I can sink my teeth into. Through the Cracks captured my attention right away. It’s true crime meets societal issues which is super timely and relevant. This podcast takes a dive into how the system has failed Relisha Rudd, a second grader who went missing for 18 days before anyone even noticed. How does this happen?
Just to give a quick back story without retelling the podcast, Relisha Rudd went missing in 2018 from a homeless shelter, D.C. General Shelter, in Washington, D.C. She was living her with her Mother Shamika Young, Stepfather Antonio Wheeler, and her 3 siblings. The family had been evicted from their apartment and stayed with family for a bit but eventually there was nowhere else to go. Here at D.C. General, Relisha befriended the janitor, Khalil Tatum, who was also a former felon. Now, of course they didn’t know this, so he became a trusted friend and caretaker for Relisha when Shamika needed an extra hand. Relisha would go back and forth between staying at her Grandma’s house, her Aunt’s house, and with Khalil Tatum. So when Relisha went missing, she could have been with any of the people listed above.
Relisha mysteriously stopped attending school but Shamika provided a note indicating that Relisha was having health problems and was in the care of “Dr. Tatum”. Sound familiar? When Tatum failed to show up to the school, they called the police and reported Relisha missing. When Antonio and Shamika were told that their daughter was missing, they didn’t believe it. Like I said, she could have been with any of the people in their family. In fact, she was supposed to be in the care of Khalil Tatum at that time. Unfortunately, things went downhill real fast. Khalil Tatum’s wife was found dead in a hotel room on the same day that Relisha was reported missing. Shortly after, Khalil Tatum was found dead of alleged suicide.
So how did things come this far? Jonquilyn Hill hosts this investigative podcast that takes us into the dark reality of racial inequality, system failure, and how people can fall through the cracks of a system that is in place for support. As you listen, you’ll learn that it’s easy to point fingers in every direction.
First, there’s the D.C. General who allowed a convicted felon to work around minor children. How were there not stricter background checks? Or protocols put into place that would forbid him from fraternizing with the children there? Or even allowing him to have a personal relationship with the families?
Then, there is the overall system. Housing costs are becoming unrealistic to lower income families and when they have nowhere to go, shelters that are in poor condition are the last resort. It feels as if the system’s intentions are for minorities to fail.
Finally, there is the family. I come from a very close knit family so I understand how kids can get mixed up at different houses. However, to not know that your child was missing for 18 days is a little extreme. Why did no one check in on Relisha during that time frame? Even if they did think that she was at her Aunts, or Grandma’s, or even Khalil’s house, wouldn’t she need food or clothes? Also, to allow a grown man who essentially is a stranger to have such a close relationship with a child is a red flag in itself.
In this podcast, Antonio explains the role he has played in Relisha’s life and he does it very well. He takes accountability for his part and explains his discomfort with the relationship Khalil and Relisha had. However, Shamika refuses to speak or do an interview so you won’t get to hear her side on the podcast. In fact, her last interview was on the Steve Wilkos show where she also refused to do a lie detector test. Something about that just doesn’t sit well.
My one criticism of this podcast is that I’ve listened to many investigative true-crime podcasts and they go so deep into the story that sometimes they even have tips come in mid season. Or potential suspects arise where it brings you closer to where the person can be found. I feel that although Jonquilyn told this story very well, she also just told a story. It feels like maybe she was holding back a little and didn’t really delve into the weed of things. However, I still think it’s a great listen and I enjoyed every episode.
As always, I suggest you listen for yourself. There is more than just true-crime here which makes it so indulging. To see the bigger picture of the issues at hand is truly saddening and makes you wonder, how can we prevent people from falling through the cracks?