Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón is offering a $110,000 reward for any information on the death of 16-year-old Tioni Theus, according to ABC News. Theus was on her way to meet her friends at a party Jan. 7 and was found dead on the side of Interstate 10 in LA the following morning. The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner said her cause of death was a gunshot wound to the neck.
ABC reported the Major Crimes Unit of the California Highway Patrol is leading the investigation, posting images of Theus on social media with contact number to the unit for anyone who can offer information.
“This incident occurred on a Saturday morning,” California Highway Patrol Assistant Chief Jesus Holguin said at the press conference. “So there has to be — there’s people that were driving by. There has to be individuals out there that eyewitnessed at least a portion, if not the entirety of this case, and we need your support.”
Gascón as well as attorney Tiffiny Blacknell believe Theus might have been a victim of sex trafficking, reported ABC. “Being a victim of human trafficking is not a moral failure. Children cannot consent to sex work. Any characterization of Tioni as a prostitute or a sex worker is disgusting. She was a child. Her life mattered,” said Blacknell via ABC.
Theus’ family honored her memory at a vigil held Jan. 19. Theus was a straight-A student at Centennial High School and enjoyed dance and golf, via ABC.
“She was thrown on the side of the freeway like trash, and she’s a child. She meant something to her family,” her cousin Lakesia Barrett told ABC Los Angeles station KABC at a vigil held for Tioni on Jan. 19. “She meant something to her mother that can’t be here. She meant something to her cousins that are here.”
Tioni’s cousin Rashida Kincy told KABC that Tioni was a “young, vibrant young lady who was just cut from so much that was ahead of her.”
She added, “This has been a tragedy to my family, to the community, to anyone that has a child, that’s a cousin, that’s a friend.”
In a Los Angeles Times opinion, columnist Erik D. Smith noted the difference in how the brutal stabbing of Brianna Kupfer was handled in contrast to Theus’ case. “No one from the California Highway Patrol showed up at a vigil for the teen earlier this week either, even though it was organized to renew interest in the case. And the agency took until Thursday evening — nearly two weeks after Tioni was found dead — to post a tweet requesting tips from the public,” wrote Smith.
Per the CHP Twitter page, anyone with information regarding Tioni Theus’ death should contact the CHP Major Crime Unit at the number 323-644-9557.