LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles City Council is expected to decide next week whether it will add to the reward fund being established to solve the murder of a 16-year-old girl whose body was found next to the Harbor (110) Freeway in South Los Angeles Jan. 8
Councilmen Curren Price Jr. and Marqueece Harris-Dawson introduced a motion before the City Council Jan. 25 calling for the city to add $50,000 to the reward fund established to solve the murder of Tioni Theus.
The council is expected to vote on the reward offer at its Feb. 1 meeting.
Price and Harris-Dawson introduced their motion before the council the same day the county Board of Supervisors voted to offer a $50,000 reward to help find Theus’ killer.
On Jan. 26, Gov. Gavin Newsom added another $50,000 to the reward pool and the county Board of Supervisors voted to add $10,000, bringing the possible reward total to $110,000.
“The cries of the community have called us to be the voice for a young girl, a child, who had her life ripped away in the most horrific way possible,” said Price in asking his colleagues to offer the reward money. “I’m pleased to see all of the collective forces standing united in the name of Tioni Theus, and all of the other unnamed Black and brown girls who have become the victims of senseless violence acts.
“We need to do better for our Black and brown women and girls in the city of Los Angeles. It is far time that the government steps up for all women and girls who are oftentimes victimized because of the color of their skin,” Price added.
Harris-Dawson said the news media sometimes upholds conventional thinking when it comes to devaluing the lives of Black women and girls.
“Today my colleagues have joined me in introducing a reward motion that crosses county, city, and district boundaries to encourage anyone who knows the perpetrator to come forward and bring peace to Tioni’s family, friends and our South Los Angeles community,” he said.
Relatives of Theus wondered how a 16-year-old girl ends up shot on the side of the freeway with little community outrage.
The family issued a statement through spokesperson Najee Ali on the reward offer.
“The family of Tioni Theus is grateful for the leadership of Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, Los Angeles Council members Price and Harris-Dawson, and their respective colleagues in ensuring there is equity in reward money for victims of murder in our community,” Ali said. “We are now calling for a multi-agency task force to help bring those responsible for her murder to justice.”
Ali and other community activists were incensed that Theus’s death was virtually ignored by most media outlets compared to the death of a UCLA graduate student, Brianna Kupfer, who was stabbed to death Jan. 13 inside a boutique furniture store in the Hancock Park community. Her suspected murderer was arrested six days later after a reward of $250,000 was offered.
Family members said Theus was a normal teen until her mother was seriously injured in a car accident in 2019.
She began to struggle without her mother and found comfort with people she was meeting on social media.
Theus was last seen Jan. 7 by her father, who she told she was meeting a friend to go to a party. She had been staying with her father since her mother was placed in a Whittier rehabilitation center recuperating from injuries she suffered in the 2019 accident.
“She said, ‘Daddy, nobody loves me. The only person that loved me was my mama,’” her father Darien Jackson told news crews. “I said ‘that’s not true, I said I love you.’ She just was crying, crying, I felt her pain.”
Jackson says he had a bad feeling about her going out, and asked her to stay home.
“I begged her not to go,” he said.
He recalled giving her a kiss and hug before she left.
“We’re definitely not pretending that Tioni was an angel,” her cousin Nafeesah Kincy told another news outlet. “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 added. “So it’s my cousin today. But it could be your cousin, your daughter, your friend tomorrow.”
“We have so many questions. Everybody is so in disbelief,” said another cousin, Rashida Kincy.
The investigation into Theus’ death is being handled by the California Highway Patrol because her body was found on state property adjacent to the Harbor Freeway at the Manchester Avenue onramp.
According to the coroner’s office, Theus died from a gunshot wound to her neck.
The CHP is asking for anyone with information about her killing to call the agency at (323) 644-9557.
“The murder of Tioni Theus is shocking in its brutality,” said Capri Maddox, executive director of the city’s Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department. “But the murders of Black women and girls that go unsolved is nothing new. Time and time again, our community faces higher rates of violence while being treated like less of a priority.”
The family has set up a GoFundMe account to assist with burial and funeral costs. To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/tionis-funeral-expenses.
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood areas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story reported the Los Angeles City Council was considering adding $10,000 to the reward pool instead of $50,000.