LOS ANGELES—One day after a reward fund swelled in hopes of generating tips leading to the killer of Tioni Theus, funeral services were held Jan. 27 for the 16-year-old girl who was shot and left alongside a South Los Angeles freeway.
Tioni’s body was discovered Jan. 8 on the side of the Harbor (110) Freeway on the Manchester Avenue on-ramp near South Figueroa Street. 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 suspect description was available.
The state on Wednesday added $50,000 to a growing reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the teen’s death. The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a $10,000 reward in the case. Los Angeles City Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Curren Price have introduced a motion for the city to offer another $50,000. That motion is expected to be approved in the next week.
A host of elected officials, including District Attorney George Gascón, had a news conference Wednesday reaching out for public help tracking down the girl’s killer or killers.
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.”
Gascón did not elaborate on the human-trafficking allegation. The girl’s cousins told the Los Angeles Times last week that Tioni had been pulled into prostitution and theft by a man she met on Instagram.
“We’re definitely not pretending that Tioni was an angel,” cousin Nafeesah Kincy told the paper. “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. So, it’s my cousin today. But it could be your cousin, your daughter, your friend tomorrow,” Kincy added.
Speaking to reporters prior to Thursday’s funeral service at the Winston Mortuary in Los Angeles, relatives again called out for public help finding her killer.
“I don’t want anybody else to have to go through this,” Tioni’s father, Darien Jackson, said. “And we know they will, but I hope that we can do something to eliminate some of the things that are happening to our babies—boys and girls. It’s just not girls.”
The CHP asked anyone with information about her killing to call the agency at 323-644-9557.