Bill Skaffington was having lunch with friends last week when talking to Aiden Leos, 6, who was in his booster seat when police said he was shot and killed by an angry driver when his mother drove on the 55 freeway.
All the businessmen agreed on one thing: they had to do something. And that was some prize money—money that could go to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest in the May 21 murder of Aiden.
One person pitched in for $10,000. The other did the same. By the end of the lunch, he made a commitment to spend $50,000. This was on top of the $50,000 given by the family, which has been matched by many others in the past week. To date, the reward is $400,000.
Reward giving is as old as border days. But does it work? This is doubtful, experts say. A reward is a tool that can sometimes generate a needed tip. And in a case like this, where the community is outraged by a senseless loss, a reward may be something else – an outlet of communal misery.
“Giving money is an expression of everyday residents who only want justice,” said Arthur Lurigio, a professor of psychology at Loyola University in Chicago who has studied the value of rewards in criminal cases.
“Whether it works is a difficult question to answer,” Lurigio said. “Here was our standard: If it were not for the reward to be paid, would the crime not have been solved? Or will the crime be solved if enough police and resources are deployed to further the investigation?”
“We could never really answer that question,” Lurigio said, referring to a study conducted on a national program called Crime Stoppers.
There is also the question of whether paying someone to report on information “undermines the development of an ethical code that we should all have,” Lurigio said.
“There’s a lot of research in psychology that if you provide an extrinsic reward, you weaken the motivation to engage in a behavior that is intrinsically good.”
“I want people to understand (the awards) have implications.”
Lurigio said he was not against giving away the award. He supports them if they lead to arrest, especially in such heinous crimes as the murder of a child.
In Aiden’s case, a growing bounty kitty and other contributing community are saying “I’m so angry, I have to do something. I can’t let it go. I have to contribute collectively,” Lurigio said.
In addition to a reward from various residents, business owners, and the county’s board of supervisors, who pledged $100,000 of taxpayer funds, other efforts include donations as small as $5 and $10, raising $362,000 to two GoFundMe accounts for the family. More than one has been added. . Contributors included Station Donuts in Yorba Linda, which created a special donut in Aiden’s honor and raised $8,150 in just three days, and the Los Alamitos Bronco Pirates baseball team, which donated $160.
GoFundMe accounts will go to the family. The amount of the reward varies, and is meant to encourage the shooter and anyone who sees or knows the female driver to come forward.
Authorities say a woman was driving a white Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen on the 55 freeway near Chapman Avenue in Orange on May 21 when a male passenger shot at a Leos Chevrolet in what police called a road rage incident. The bullet went through the rear of the Chevrolet and hit the boy, who was in the booster in the back seat of a car driven by his mother, Joanna Clunan.
Awards are not common in Orange County. In recent years, a successful bounty campaign caught three men who escaped from the local county jail and eventually moved to Northern California. In that 2016 case, Four Tipster Divided $150,000, With Going $100,000 to a Homeless Man In San Francisco who alerted the fugitives to the police.
Officials cannot say whether the award leads to an arrest. “Whether it’s an effective tool or not, it’s not something we track,” Orange County Sheriff Sgt. Todd Hilton. “Effectiveness is hard to determine.”
California Highway Patrol Officer John DeMatio also could not speak to the effectiveness of the prize money. No agency is involved in the award offers in the murder of Aidan.
But CHP is getting more suggestions as they released a photo of the suspects’ car, a white Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen. “This is a new model, and not an extremely common vehicle,” DeMatteo said.
Big four-by-10-foot black banners are going up in Orange County and the Inland Empire, with the question “Who killed Aiden?” Banner contains a website, (aiden-reward.com), along with photographs of the suspects’ car and other information. It was created by people affiliated with the Huntington Beach Martial Arts School, Z-Ultimate Self Defense Studio.
“When I heard about it, it devastated me,” said Chris Eszlinger of the martial arts school. He and his colleague Brian Hyman have planned to put up 25 banners in recent days.
One of the banners is outside Watson’s Soda Fountain and Cafe in Orange, where District Attorney Todd Spitzer held a press conference last Friday asking suspects to turn in themselves. “You killed a little boy. A little boy who must be in kindergarten today,” he said, using a bank of cameras to address the shooter directly.
Skaffington, who with his friends is putting $50,000 of the $400,000 pledged into prizes, owns Watson and several other businesses. Last weekend Watson and Rockwell’s Bakery in Villa Park and Scuffington-owned San Clemente began selling custom sugar cookies emblazoned with a teddy bear and the words “Justice for Eden.” All the money raised will be added to the prize money.
Bakery manager Kendall Skaffington said the cookies sell out every day.
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