LOS ANGELES – The road rage case of Aiden Leos, a 6-year-old boy who was shot dead while his mother was driving him to kindergarten in Southern California, has struck a chord across the country. His death fueled outrage nationwide – and half a million dollars in reward.
Then, two weeks after Aiden’s death on May 21, a couple were arrested – and among the allegations is a murder charge against a 24-year-old man who police say admits firing the fatal bullet.
Now the question is: what happens to the $ 500,000 in reward money? This isn’t the first time that a big payoff has accrued in a case, and it certainly isn’t the first time questions have lingered. Authorities often remain silent on things such as evidence, who informed them and when someone might receive the money a generous public has given in the hope that someone will come forward.
“There are quite a few hoops to go through to get the cash rewards,” said Diane Birnholz, a former federal prosecutor and currently a lecturer at UCLA Law School. “That’s why I think it’s more of a minority of cases where the rewards are actually dispersed.”
In the weeks leading up to the arrests, California Highway Patrol officials said they had received hundreds of calls and emails with possible leads. Officials say they received a tip which led them to Marcus Anthony Eriz, 24, and Wynne Lee, 23; details were not disclosed. Eriz is being held without bond, while the precise amount of Lee’s bond is pending assessment.
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Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner, one of the people who donated to the award, told USA TODAY in a statement that “claims for the award money will be reviewed later in order to do not jeopardize the investigation “. Such claims from award administrators are common – and understandable to some extent, as awards are often touted with the caveat that a tipster’s information must lead to conviction.
“I am grateful for all the advice the investigators received and I thank the citizens of Orange County who have come together to provide financial and emotional support to Aiden’s family,” Wagner said. “It is too early to discuss any claim for a right to payment of the reward. The investigation is continuing and the suspects have not been convicted. “
Even after a conviction has been passed, the reward may not be distributed in full. In the case of the arrest of ex-Los Angeles Police Officer Christopher Dorner for killing three and injuring two, the $ 1 million reward has not been paid in full. Vicki Curry told the Los Angeles Times that the reason for the reduction in the amount was because some donors felt the criteria – Dorner’s conviction – for the award’s distribution were not met. No conviction has been handed down as he died of a gunshot wound he apparently sustained to the head.
On April 5, 2013, most donors met to establish a process for deciding how to distribute the award, which included creating a panel of three former judges to decide who should receive the award and how much. The panel ultimately ruled that Karen and Jim Reynolds, a couple who were held hostage in Big Bear, Calif. By Dorner and informed officers of his location after escaping, would receive 80% of the reward because their information “directly led to the pursuit and capture of Dorner,” according to the decision memorandum.
The panel also decided that 15% would be awarded to Daniel McGowan for reporting Dorner’s location by sharing that his edge on fire at Big Bear Ski Resort and 5% would be awarded to R. Lee McDaniel for notifying the police of Dorner’s whereabouts at one point. point when searching.
In the case of Aiden Leos, there are multiple donors ranging from government officials to anonymous donors. Birnholz believes that different donors may cause problems in the case.
“You have different sources that donate money for the award, and they may each have their own standards for how it’s dispersed,” she said.
Crime Stoppers works with law enforcement to provide anonymous advice. Natalie Salazar, executive director of the Los Angeles Regional Crime Stoppers, said the organization provides a way for people to share information anonymously without fear of retaliation or providing personal information, which is often the case when report directly to the police. They also offer up to $ 1,000 for information leading to an arrest. They are funded by private donations, ensuring that payment will be made as long as the information leads directly to the arrest of a suspect and the reward is claimed within 90 days. If it is not claimed, it goes back to their reward fund.
Although the reward is higher for those funded by government and business officials, it is not always guaranteed.
“In almost every case that I have seen where this happens, this reward is not paid,” said Salazar. “Unless the tipster is willing to relinquish their anonymity, they can be kept private and they will generally not receive this award until there is a conviction in the case.”
Determining who receives the reward for arresting a person becomes difficult and depends on each case:
- On December 3, 2020, Caitlyn Kaufman was shot and killed while driving westbound on Interstate 440 in Nashville. Metro police arrested suspect Devaunte Hill the following Friday, December 11, after the reward for his arrest rose to $ 65,000. Businesses and entrepreneurs donated $ 50,000 of the total amount. The tip that led to the arrest was made by Crime Stoppers. Once a person is convicted, the anonymous tipster should receive the reward money.
- On March 2, 2012, Ken Konias Jr. was arrested for an armored car robbery in Pittsburgh after a pimp and his girlfriend reported him to the police. Konias stole $ 2.3 million and killed his partner Michael Haines while working on February 28 as an armored vehicle driver for Garda Cash Logistic. The transport company offered $ 100,000 to anyone who could provide information leading to Konias’s arrest and conviction. The names of the tipsters who won the award have not been released.
- On June 13, 2017, two Georgian inmates escaped from a prison bus, killing two guards in the process. The two inmates, Ricky Dubose and Donnie Rowe, were found two days later after the reward for their arrest rose to $ 141,000. Various government organizations, such as the FBI, and anonymous private donors provided the money. The Georgia Bureau of Investigations has announced that it will split its $ 20,000 between two Tennessee households. Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills was responsible for deciding the distribution of the rest of the money, with the exception of FBI and ATF donations which were handled in private. Stills donated $ 5,000 to a person whose car was stolen and damaged by inmates during their run. The remaining $ 91,000 was split evenly between the two Tennessee households and a confidential US Marshals Service informant.
Authorities have kept vague information about how the arrests of Eriz and Lee were carried out. Birnholz said this raises more questions about the impact of the arrest advice and the extent of their own investigation.
While it is not known what will happen to the award, many of those who donated shared their support and feelings for the arrest of the suspects.
Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley matched Wagner’s donation to support research and amplify the investigation with other community members who have been affected by Aiden’s death.
“I am grateful to the whole community and the media who have come together to amplify the need to find the suspects because in a civilized society, we should not be afraid to drive on the freeway taking our children to school. ‘one of them is going to be shot in the back,’ she said.
A flurry of others began to donate after Foley kept Aiden’s story featured in the media. The Orange County supervisor said the attention to the growing reward has led to even more tips and appeals from community members. The influx of information to the CHP led to possible arrests.
“Unfortunately, we are now in a society where people are motivated by money, more than doing the right thing all the time,” she said. “So the reward system really works. “
The Times reported that investigators identified the couple after they got a tip and improved a picture of the vehicle’s license plate. They also discovered that the two were on their way to work in the Inland Empire area of Southern California and were in the area of the shooting when it happened.
Reflecting on the reasons why the case had garnered so much cooperation, in addition to national attention, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said: ‘That’s because it could have happened to n’ no matter which of us.
“We all drive on the freeways in Southern California. We all got mad at other motorists; other motorists got mad at us. I made a few gestures about me. But he never is. come to a situation of violence, and certainly not in my kingdom or your kingdom at the loss of a life.