In the days since a pair of Georgia inmates suspected of killing two guards were captured in Tennessee, a new question has arisen: Who will get the $141,000 reward?
The pot of money, which was promised to anyone who could provide information that would lead to the arrest of the inmates, Donnie R. Rowe and Ricky Dubose, grew over the course of a three-day manhunt.
It would appear that there are at least three people who could argue that they should be paid — and there is perhaps also a way for law enforcement to avoid paying at all.
Sheriff Austin Swing of Bedford County, Tenn., has said Mr. Rowe and Mr. Dubose invaded the home of an elderly couple on Thursday, hours before their arrest. They held the couple at gunpoint, threatened to kill them and tied at least one of them up before the couple were eventually able to report the crime.
Patrick Hale, a resident of Rutherford County, Tenn., has said that he saw the inmates from a distance about an hour later and was trying to flee when the men surrendered by lying down on his driveway. (Mr. Hale said his car resembled a police cruiser.)
Because the inmates had surrendered, Sheriff Howard R. Sills of Putnam County, Ga., initially said the reward would not be paid. But a spokeswoman for the sheriff said Tuesday that her boss was now “confident” the money would eventually be awarded.
“Information has revealed that the bravery of Tennessee civilians contributed to the apprehension of both inmates,” the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a statement on Friday, promising that the reward would be paid at the appropriate time. “As there were several aspects involved in their apprehension, law enforcement will continue to review them and determine how it will be dispersed.”
It is not unusual for law enforcement to offer a reward in high-profile cases. But as this case suggests, figuring out who will get paid, and how much, can sometimes be complicated.
Not all rewards end up as big paydays. You are more likely to get a quick $1,000 for spotting what may be a crime in progress and relaying that information to Crime Stoppers.
Cities and towns across the nation have set up Crime Stoppers programs to take tips anonymously by phone or text or through a website. By using reference numbers and codes, tipsters can see if their tips pan out. And if the information you offer leads to an arrest and indictment, you may get paid.
If a case becomes more serious, detectives can request funds from a mayor’s office, said Joseph A. Pollini, a former detective who is now a lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. But to claim any reward money offered outside of Crime Stoppers, tipsters may need to identify themselves.
More funding can pour in from outside donors — public entities and private citizens who want to give money to help solve the crime, Mr. Pollini said. That happened in the Georgia case.
But donors can add strings to whatever funds they are promising. And how much is ultimately pledged depends on the “flavor of the case,” Mr. Pollini said. For example, cases like that of Karina Vetrano, a 30-year-old woman who was sexually assaulted and strangled while on a jog, can generate a strong emotional response and especially large rewards.
Mr. Pollini said he found rewards helpful in solving cases because they provided “a greater probability” that someone would come forward with correct information. And the bigger the reward, he added, the more incentive people have to give a tip.
“There’s no advantage to talking to the police,” he said. “You have to testify in court. Your name will go public. Why would you want that aggravation?” Most people, he continued, believe someone else will tell the authorities.
It is rare for a donor to pull reward money off the table, Mr. Pollini said. But it can happen.
The 2013 manhunt for Christopher J. Dorner gripped much of Southern California for over a week, as police officers swarmed the region in search of a man bent on exacting revenge against them.
Mr. Dorner, 33, was accused of killing three people, including a police officer, and wounding several others. More than two dozen public agencies and private donors banded together to fund a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest and conviction.
Mr. Dorner ultimately encountered several people and killed another officer before fatally shooting himself inside a cabin.
Twelve people subsequently filed claims for the reward, according to a memorandum released by the Los Angeles Police Department. To determine who would be paid, the authorities presented evidence to a panel of former judges, and the panel used a common set of criteria to assess each claim.
To get a share of the reward, a person had to have contacted law enforcement with “relevant” information that “furthered the purposes of the investigation.” Also, that information had to actually lead to the capture of Mr. Dorner.
The committee decided that Mr. Dorner had been “constructively arrested or captured” when law enforcement officers surrounded the cabin where he killed himself. They also chose not to require a conviction, reasoning that getting one “would be impossible in view of the fact that Dorner is dead.”
The panel ultimately concluded that three of the 12 claimants met the criteria. But some donors refused to pay. For example, city officials from Riverside, Calif., where a police officer was killed, announced that the city would not pony up the $100,000 it had offered, because the conditions of the reward — which included “arrest and conviction” — had not been met.
Mr. Dorner had taken his own life “prior to the arrest being perfected,” a Riverside city councilman said at the time. “And this certainly was not a conviction.”
In the end, $886,000 was paid, according to The Los Angeles Times. A husband and wife who were tied up at gunpoint by Mr. Dorner when they found him hiding in their cabin received 80 percent of the reward. The pair, who counted as one claimant, had wriggled free and called the authorities. Mr. Dorner was tracked down shortly thereafter.
Two other men got significantly smaller shares for their tips, which the panel of judges said did not directly lead to Mr. Dorner’s capture.