A group of community activists will gather Saturday to call on Gov. Gavin Newsom and state officials to introduce a reward for information leading to the killer of a 16-year-old girl whose body was found dumped alongside the Harbor (110) Freeway.
Tioni Theus’ body — with a gunshot wound to her neck — was found the morning of Jan. 8 on the side of the freeway on the West Manchester Avenue on-ramp near South Figueroa Street, in the Vermont Knolls area of Los Angeles, according to the California Highway Patrol.
She had last been seen the previous day 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.
Tioni’s family, along with members of the CHP and activists from Project Hope, are expected to attend a Saturday news conference calling on Newsom and state officials to raise a reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspect or suspects responsible for the teen’s death.
The absence of such a reward in the killing of a young Black girl stands in stark contrast to the rapid establishment of a $250,000 reward fund 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. Kupfer’s alleged killer was arrested Wednesday.
“The CHP is conducting the criminal investigation (into Tioni’s death), and California elected officials are the representatives the family must make the award request from since her body was dumped and recovered on California state property,” said Najee Ali of Operation Hope.
“It’s important that Gov. Newsom and state elected officials realize that Tioni Theus’ life mattered,” he added. “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.”
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,” she said. “So, it’s my cousin today. But it could be your cousin, your daughter, your friend tomorrow.”