Authorities approved a $60,000 reward for information to help find the killer of 16-year-old Tioni Theus, who was found on the side of a South Los Angeles freeway earlier this month.
The young girl was left dead near the Manchester off-ramp of the 110 Freeway on Jan. 8 with a gunshot wound to her neck.
Since her body was discovered, Theus’ family and community members have urged officials to offer reward money to help track down her killer.
The reward available includes $50,000 approved by Gov. Gavin Newsom Wednesday and another $10,000 approved by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors the day before.
Another $50,000 is being considered by the L.A. City Council, which if approved next week, would raise the reward amount to $110,000.
L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón said evidence indicates that the young girl may have been the victim of human trafficking.
“This speaks as to why we need to do more for survivors of human trafficking,” Gascón said during a media briefing Wednesday.
Theus was last seen on Jan. 7, when she left her Compton home to meet an “Instagram friend” to go to a party. Her body was found the next day.
Officials urged members of the public with any information to come forward during Wednesday’s news conference.
California Highway Patrol, which is leading the investigation, said detectives are exhausting all the leads.
“This incident occurred on a Saturday morning … there’s people that were driving by,” CHP Assistant Chief Jesus Holguin said. “There has to be individuals out there that eye-witnessed at least a portion, if not the entirety, of this case.”
Theus’ case has been contrasted to that of Brianna Kupfer, whose killing in Hancock Park garnered $250,000 in reward money, most of which came from donations from community members.
The teenage girl’s family have stressed that she deserved the same attention that Kupfer received.
“Time and time again missing and victimized Black women and girls are overlooked, and lack the appropriate media attention in comparison to their counterparts,” said L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, who introduced a motion to establish a reward.
Family members said Theus was dealing with the trauma of her mother suffering a debilitating injury in a 2019 hit-and-run that left her in a rehabilitation facility.
“As a mother, and mother of black girls, I know that takes a village to raise a child. Our village failed to protect Tioni,” said Tiffiny Blacknell, an advisor to the District Attorney.
She urged anyone with information to speak up.
“We can do something now,” Blacknell said. “We can prevent the next child from being dumped along the freeway.”
Anyone with information is asked to call CHP at 323-644-9550.