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$110K reward offered after teen girl found dead on L.A. freeway

Tioni Theus, whose body was discovered Jan. 8 on Interstate 10, may have been a victim of human trafficking, officials say.
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A 16-year-old girl whose body was found dumped on a freeway this month may have fallen prey to human traffickers, officials in Los Angeles said Wednesday while announcing a $110,000 reward to help crack the slaying.

Tioni Theus was found Jan. 8 on a southbound on-ramp on Interstate 10, the California Highway Patrol said.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón called her death a "callous slaying" in a news conference Wednesday.

He announced an additional $50,000 offered by the state. Rewards totaling $110,000 are available to those whose tips lead to an arrest and conviction in the teen's death, officials said.

"The investigation is ongoing. However, there is evidence indicating this young girl may have been the victim of human trafficking," Gascón said.

Tioni was "last seen on January the 7th when she reportedly told her father that she was meeting a friend to go to a party. ... Please help bring Tioni's murder to justice," Gascón said.

California Highway Patrol Assistant Chief Jesus Holguin joined Gascón at the media briefing. The department's Major Crimes Unit is leading a "24 hour"-a-day investigation, he said.

Holguin urged witnesses to come forward, noting that the girl's body was found on a Saturday morning.

"We know there are people out there that witnessed something we can follow up on," Holguin said. "There were people ... driving by. There has to be individuals out there that eye-witnessed at least a portion, if not the entirety, of this case."

Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell joined the news conference and said Tioni's death hits close to home.

"As a mother, as a Black woman, it gives me ... great sadness to experience this as a community member," Mitchell said.

Crimes against Black women and girls are often not given necessary public attention, she said.

"Time and time again, missing and victimized Black women and girls are overlooked and lack the appropriate media attention in comparison to their counterparts," she said. "While this reward in no way alleviates this tragedy that has occurred, it is an incentive to those in the community and beyond to speak up and provide information about what occurred leading up to her January 8th murder."

NBC Los Angeles reported that Tioni was a straight-A student.

Rashida Kincy, Tioni's cousin, said she was a "vibrant young lady that was just cut from so much that was ahead of her."

"This has been a tragedy to my family, to the community," Kincy told the station.

Anyone with information about Tioni's slaying is urged to call the California Highway Patrol's Major Crimes Unit at 323-644-9550. Anonymous tips, officials said, can be made at 888-412-7463.