CALIFORNIA CITY — The City Council on April 9 agreed to more than double the rewards offered for information leading to arrest and conviction in eight major cases under investigation by the California City Police Department.

The rewards are being increased from $10,000 to $25,000 each in the open cases, including five murder and three missing persons investigations dating back to 2001.

The $10,000 rewards for all eight cases were set in 2017. The department is now creating a special unit dedicated to investigate these specific cases.

Some of these cases may have a greater potential to be solved with a higher reward amount to entice potential witnesses or those that may have vital information to come forward, Police Chief Eric Hurtado said in the staff report.

The murder cases included in the increased rewards are those of Dr. Burdette Thorbus in 2001, Matthew Lininger in 2010 and Demetri Thomas, a 19-year-old Lancaster resident killed in a drive-by shooting in Cal City in March 2014.

The murder cases also include those of Planning Commissioner Charles Pieper, who was found shot dead in his home in December 2012, and 24-year-old Deverrie Schiller, who was found dead in Central Park in June 2016.

In the missing person cases, police are seeking information regarding Desiree Thompson, who was 30 when she was last seen in January 2012. Sometimes using the last name Gibson, she is described as 5 foot, 4 inches tall and 210 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. She has letters tattooed on her right forearm, right neck and left wrist.

They are also looking for Robert Austin Tharp, who was last seen or heard from in early July 2014. Tharp, who was 20 when he went missing, is described as a white male, 6-foot 3-inches tall and weighing 150 pounds, with dark blonde hair and blue eyes.

A reward also is offered for information leading to the whereabouts of Phillip “Pete” Hammond, who was last seen in July 2017, and whose abandoned car was later found in a remote area north of the city. Hammond is white, 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, with brown eyes and salt-and-pepper hair and beard.

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