Two Los Angeles City Councilmen introduced a motion Tuesday calling for the city to offer a $50,000 reward for information that leads to the conviction of the person responsible for the shooting death of a 16-year-old girl whose body was found dumped alongside the Harbor (110) Freeway.
The motion, which is expected to be voted upon in the next week, was introduced by Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Curren Price. The motion came on the same day the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a $10,000 reward offer in the case.
The county reward proposal was introduced by Supervisor Holly Mitchell.
On Saturday, a group of activists gathered and pushed for elected officials to offer a reward for information in the killing of Tioni Theus, whose body was found Jan. 8 on the side of the freeway on the Manchester Avenue on-ramp near South Figueroa Street in South Los Angeles.
Activists had said the absence of a reward in the killing of the young Black girl stands in stark contrast to the $250,000 reward offered in the search for the killer of 24-year-old Brianna Kupfer, a Pacific Palisades resident and UCLA grad student who was fatally stabbed Jan. 13 inside a boutique furniture store in Hancock Park.
Tioni had last been seen Jan. 7 after telling a family member she was going to meet a friend to go to a party, officials said. No further information was provided, and no suspect description was available.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Police Commission, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday the case was something that “all of Los Angeles should be paying close attention to.”
He added that other than the anticipated reward money, “the incentive should be that we know in our community that this murder did not occur in a vacuum and that … this young girl was tragically taken from us and the people responsible are still amongst us, which poses an imminent risk to all of us.”
The investigation is being handled by the California Highway Patrol, but the LAPD offered investigative assistance. Moore told the Police Commission the CHP hasn’t yet identified a suspect or description of the suspect or involved vehicle.
“Ms. Theus lived in Compton and was a student at Centennial High School,” according to the county motion. “She was reportedly living with her father as her mother recovered from a serious hit-and-run accident. Family members say she was a straight-A student and enjoyed dance and golf.
“Investigators are urging anyone with information about this incident to contact the California Highway Patrol. A reward will encourage members of the public to come forward with information that can help identify the individual(s) responsible for her death.”
Price, meanwhile, said, “Tioni was a young lady with so much promise, joy and spirit with God-given gifts and talents to give to the world. She had so much to live for and countless unfinished dreams. It’s disheartening to know that the person or persons responsible for her killing are still on the loose while a family and entire community continues to grieve in search for answers.
“I stand in solidarity with the Theus family and all Angelenos demanding justice in her name so that her family and loved ones can find solace in knowing that the ones who chose to end this vibrant girl’s life will answer to their crime.”
Speaking with community activists at Saturday’s news conference, Rashida Kincy, a cousin of Tioni, described her as a “vibrant young lady that was just cut from so much that was ahead of her.”
“This has been a tragedy to my family, to the community,” she said.
California Highway Patrol Capt. Jeff Lofton spoke at the news conference, asking anyone with information to come forward.
“If you’re from the community here and you have cameras in your vehicle and you were driving along the route, along the 110 Freeway that morning, please look at your video,” Lofton said. “If you find something at Manchester and the 110, call investigators.”
Activists said they also want the state to put up reward money in Tioni’s death.
“It’s important that Governor (Gavin) Newsom and state elected officials realize that Tioni Theus’ life mattered,” activist Najee Ali said. “The fact that someone could shoot and kill a young woman and dump her body on the side of the freeway like she was trash is outrageous.”
A representative for the governor’s office said there is a crime tip reward program under the state’s penal code, but it requires law enforcement officials to submit a recommendation for a reward to the governor. The governor then reviews the recommendation and can authorize a reward in qualifying cases.
On Thursday, the CHP posted photos of Tioni on Twitter and asked for anyone with information about her killing to call the agency at 323-644-9557.
Tioni’s cousins told the Los Angeles Times the teen was good in school and enjoyed golfing, dancing and singing. But they said her life took a turn in 2019 when her mother was severely injured in a hit-and-run crash that has left her in a rehabilitation facility.
Tioni began rebelling after that, disappearing for long periods and eventually being pulled into prostitution and theft by a man she met on Instagram, the cousins told The Times.
“We’re definitely not pretending that Tioni was an angel,” cousin Nafeesah Kincy told the paper. “She faced trauma. I want to humanize her. I don’t want her to be seen as a prostitute or a runaway or somebody that people feel like `Oh, well, they live that lifestyle.’
“It’s so many young women out here being victimized and being taken advantage of physically and sexually. So, it’s my cousin today. But it could be your cousin, your daughter, your friend tomorrow,” Kincy added.