“How does a 16-year-old girl end up shot on the side of the freeway, and there’s little community outrage?” asked the family of Tioni Theus.
LOS ANGELES – As crime continues to rise throughout the city of Los Angeles, one family seeks answers after their loved one’s body was founded discarded along the side of a South LA freeway.
Tioni Theus, 16, was found dead on the 110 freeway on Jan. 8. Theus’ death didn’t prompt the same news coverage as Briana Kupfer, who was killed at work the week prior.
“We have so many questions. Everybody is so in disbelief,” said her cousin Rashida Kincy.
Theus’ life took a dramatic turn when her mother was the victim of a horrendous traffic accident that has left her in a Whittier rehab center.
She began to struggle without her mother, and found solace with people she was meeting on social media. The same people her father begged her not to hang out with the night before her body would be discovered.
“She said, Daddy, nobody loves me. The only person that loved me was my mama,” her father Darien Jackson told the local news. “I said that’s not true, I said I love you. She just was crying, crying, I felt her pain.”
Theus was last seen January 7, by her dad, when she told him she was meeting a friend to go to a party. The 16-year-old had been staying with dad, since her mother was placed in an assisted living facility, to recuperate from a serious hit-and-run.
Jackson said that as his daughter was planning to leave he had a bad feeling, and begged her to stay with him. Despite denying his requests, he gave his daughter a kiss and a hug, before she left for a party with an unnamed friend, leaving him for what he said he “didn’t know was a last goodbye.”
The family hesitated to speak publicly on what could have happened to Tioni, until they spoke out to news outlets more about her background.
Social media posts by Tioni showed she was “no angel” as her family described her.
According to details provided to the media, Tioni began disappearing for extended periods of time, and being pulled into theft and prostitution.
“We’re definitely not pretending that Tioni was an angel,” her cousin Nafeesah Kincy told The Times, “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 said, “So it’s my cousin today. But it could be your cousin, your daughter, your friend tomorrow.”
Local activists continue to press for answers, a reward, and the public’s help in finding Tioni’s killer(s).
“The CHP is conducting the criminal investigation, and California elected officials are the representatives the family must make the award request from since her body was dumped and recovered on California state property,” said Najee Ali, with Project Hope. “It’s important that Governor Newsom and state elected officials realize that Tioni Theus’ life mattered and the fact that someone could shoot and kill a young woman, and dump her body on the side of the freeway like she was trash is outrageous.”
According to the coroner’s office, Theus died from gunshot wounds to her neck.
South LA Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents the area where Tioni’s body was found, has yet to make an announcement of requesting a reward for information leading to her death.
“Our hearts are heavy with the news of the loss of life of 16-year-old Tioni Theus,” wrote Harris-Dawson on social media Jan. 21.
This is the second woman murdered in Harris-Dawson’s district, under highly suspicious circumstances.
In September 2020, Mikeona Johnson, 23, was reported missing, and was found dead her in car, days later, in walking distance of Harris-Dawson’s family home.
A Change.org petition reached nearly 1,000 signatures from residents urging Harris-Dawson to offer a reward in her death.
The reward for information leading to the arrest of Briana Kupfer’s killer reached $250,000, which included some city funds. Her murderer was captured from a tip from the public.
The family has setup a GoFundMe account to assist with burial and funeral costs where you can donate at https://www.gofundme.com/f/tionis-funeral-expenses.
The CHP is asking for anyone with information about her killing to call the agency at 323-644-9557.