A group of community activists gathered on Saturday to call on state officials to introduce a reward for information leading to the murder of a 16-year-old girl whose body was found dumped along the highway in the harbor (110).
LOS ANGELES – A 16-year-old woman, Tioni Theus, was found the victim of a homicide on 01.08.2022. The California Highway Patrol Southern Division Special Services Command Major Crimes Unit asks anyone with information about the homicide to contact us at 323-644-9557.#CHP pic.twitter.com/INZSS3LirX
– CHP – Los Angeles Communications Center (@chp_la_comm) January 21, 2022
The body of Tioni Theus – with a gunshot wound to the neck – was found on the morning of January 8 on the side of the freeway on the West Manchester Avenue on-ramp near South Figueroa Street in the Vermont borough Knolls in Los Angeles, according to the California Highway Patrol.
She was last seen the previous day after telling a family member she was meeting a friend for a party, officials said. No other information was provided and no suspect description was available.
Tioni’s family, along with CHP members and Project Hope activists, attended a press conference on Saturday calling on officials to offer a reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspect or suspects responsible for the death of the teenager.
Activists say the lack of such a reward in the murder of a young black girl stands in stark contrast to the efforts that led to a proposed $250,000 reward in the search for the killer of 24-year-old resident Brianna Kupfer of Pacific Palisades and UCLA graduate student who was fatally stabbed Jan. 13 at a furniture store in Hancock Park.
Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz introduced a motion on Tuesday to create a $50,000 reward in the Kupfer case, and private donations later raised the amount to a potential $250,000.
Kupfer’s suspected killer was arrested Wednesday in Pasadena. It was not immediately clear if anyone would be in line to receive a reward in this case.
“The CHP is leading the criminal investigation (into Tioni’s death), and California’s elected officials are the representatives to whom the family should apply for the reward since his body was dumped and recovered on California State property. “said Najee Ali of Project Hope.
“It’s important that Governor Newsom and state 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 highway like she was trash is outrageous.”
Ali told the City News Service that he has reached out to Los Angeles City Council members Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson about a possible award from the City Council, but they need to coordinate those efforts with representatives from state, primarily Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D- Los Angeles.
“Procedurally, the CHP is leading the investigation because the body was found on state property, so we have to work with state officials,” Ali said.
The CHP posted photos of Tioni on Twitter on Thursday and asked anyone with information about his murder to call the agency at 323-644-9557.
“If you are from the community here and you have cameras in your vehicle and you were driving along the road, along the 110 freeway that morning, please watch your video,” said the captain of the CHP Jeff Lofton at Saturday’s event. “If you find anything in Manchester and 110, call the investigators.”
Tioni’s cousins told the Los Angeles Times that the teenager was good at school and loved to golf, dance and sing. But they said her life took a turn in 2019 when her mother was seriously injured in a hit-and-run accident that left her in a rehabilitation centre.
Tioni began to rebel after that, disappearing for long periods of time and eventually being drawn into prostitution and theft by a man she met on Instagram, the cousins told The Times.
“We certainly don’t claim that Tioni was an angel,” her cousin Nafeesah Kincy told the newspaper. “She suffered a trauma. I want to humanize it. I don’t want her to be seen as a prostitute or a runaway or someone that people think “Oh, well, they live that lifestyle.”
“…There are so many young women here who are physically and sexually victimized and exploited. So he’s my cousin today. But it could be your cousin, your daughter, your friend tomorrow,” Kincy added.
Price also called for justice in the matter.
“All of Los Angeles needs to speak its name. Tioni, a 16-year-old black girl, straight college student, and devoted girl, was shot dead and left on the side of the 110 freeway. The person(s) involved in her murder are heartless and must be brought to justice,” the councilman tweeted on Friday.
“…I stand in solidarity with the Theus family and the African American community who are seeking justice on his behalf so that his family and loved ones can find comfort in knowing that those who chose to end the life of this dynamic young girl will answer for their crime,” Price continued.