The Los Angeles Police Department is asking for the public’s help in figuring out who is responsible for the killing of 16-year-old Tioni Theus, whose body was dumped on a busy freeway nearly three weeks ago.
Theus’ remains were discovered early January 8, officials with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) confirmed to CNN. The county medical examiner determined the teenager died as a result of a gunshot wound to the neck.
Leaders at the city, county, and state levels have come together to offer a $110,000 reward for information in the case that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the gruesome crime.
“There has to be an individual out there that witnessed at least a portion, if not the entirety of this case,” CHP Assistant Chief Jesus Hogluin said at a press conference Wednesday (January 26).
“We know that people out there witnessed something that we can follow up on and hopefully get to the bottom of this crime as soon as possible.”
Barion Jackson, Theus’ father, said he last spoke with his daughter the day before her death, when she visited him at his store.
“That was my baby girl,” he told Fox 11 Los Angeles, adding that during their conversation, Tioni said she was meeting a friend to go to a party. “I feel like something was really wrong that night when she came. I begged her to stay.”
LA County District Attorney George Gascón said his office has received evidence that Tioni may have been the victim of human trafficking after reviewing court documents the indicate Tioni was sexually exploited as a child.
“Being a victim of human trafficking is not a moral failure,” Tiffany Blacknell, DA advisor, said. “Children cannot consent to sex work… she was a child. Her life mattered.”
Tioni’s family has been holding vigils since her death, attempting to get media coverage, and hopefully answers about what happened to the Centennial High School student who loved dance and golf.
“It is imperative we do not allow implicit bias or the adultification of Black girls continue to influence the lack of media coverage or public outrage over their murders,” LA County Supervisor Holly Mitchell said.
“We have come together as elected leaders … to elevate her murder because of the trend we experience where Black women and Black girls deaths go unacknowledged, underreported, and too often unsolved.”
Reading about Black trauma can have an impact on your mental health. If you or someone you know need immediate mental health help, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor. These additional resources are also available:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
The National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-6264
The Association of Black Psychologists 1-301-449-3082
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America 1-240-485-1001
For more mental health resources, click HERE.