The state has added $50,000 to the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the shooting death of a 16-year-old girl whose body was dumped alongside the Harbor (110) Freeway in South Los Angeles, officials said Wednesday.
During a news conference seeking the public’s help in solving the crime, Assistant Chief Jesus Holguin of the California Highway Patrol told reporters that he had just gotten news that Gov. Gavin Newsom approved the $50,000, which brings the total possible reward money being offered for the capture of Tioni Theus’ killer to $110,000.
The girl’s body was discovered Jan. 8 on the side of the freeway on the Manchester Avenue on-ramp near South Figueroa Street.
“We’re very confident that we’re moving forward in a positive direction and hopefully have some good news in the very near future,” Holguin said during a Zoom news conference in which Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón joined other elected officials.
City Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Curren Price have introduced a motion calling on the city to offer a $50,000 reward for information involving the teen’s killing. The motion is expected to be voted upon in the coming week.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $10,000 reward offer Tuesday.
The district attorney said there is evidence indicating that “this young girl may have been the victim of human trafficking,” and noted that the investigation into her death is ongoing.
“We need the public’s help,” Gascón said. “Please help bring Tioni’s murderer to justice, and if you have any information, please contact the California Highway Patrol.”
Harris-Dawson said he was grateful to community members who “literally on the next day were on the steps of the 77th (Street) police station in Los Angeles, demanding that our police department, California Highway Patrol, the county sheriff’s and everybody get involved to bring this assailant to justice.
“It is what we owe Tioni and it is what we owe all the children of our community so that they know they live in a place where if anybody lays a hand on them the community will rally to their protection and to their defense,” the councilman said.
County Supervisor Holly Mitchell vowed to “continue to seek justice” on the family’s behalf, with Price pledging to the girl that she has “not died in vain.”
Assemblyman Mike Gipson said he was “damn mad,” calling the girl “someone’s daughter that was taken away from us senselessly.”
Last Saturday, a group of activists gathered and pushed for elected officials to offer a reward for information in the girl’s killing. They said then that the absence of a reward in the killing of the young Black girl stood 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 was last 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 CHP, but the LAPD offered investigative assistance. Moore told the Police Commission the CHP hasn’t yet identified a suspect and does not yet have a 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.”
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.
On Wednesday, CHP Capt. Jeff Lofton asked anyone with information about the case 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.”
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.