$1M reward in Christopher Dorner case: Will anyone get to claim cash?


(CBS News) Dental records now confirm Christopher Dorner is the person who died in a mountain cabin, after a fire and shootout with police Tuesday. The ex-officer was wanted in four killings.

Online chatter continues over Dorner rampage

But even as some questions are answered, new ones emerge -- now about that hefty $1 million reward offered in the case. It was the largest local reward ever offered, according to Los Angeles' Chief of Police Charlie Beck, who announced the reward when the police were on high alert, the entire region nervously wondering where the next shooting might be.

Just two days later Dorner was cornered in a fiery gun battle that came just after two separate sightings reported to police.

Karen Reynolds with her husband Jim called 911 to report Dorner had tied them up and stolen their car, potentially making them good candidates for the money. Karen Reynolds said, "We didn't even think about any of that until sitting around the sheriff's station. We just kind of started joking about it."

Another possible candidate: Rick Heltebrake. He was carjacked by Dorner, and says he reported that immediately to a local sheriff's deputy. Heltebrake said, "I called him directly. He goes, 'Whatcha got, Rick?' I said, 'Paul, he just took my truck.' "

But it may not be who gets the reward, but whether anyone does. It may have been offered with a catch: capture and conviction.

Beck said at the time the reward was offered, "The reward is for the capture and conviction."

So does Dorner's death let the city off the hook? University of Southern California law professor Dan Simon thinks not. Asked if it's better public relations to give away the money, Simon said, "I think so. ... I don't think the city should hide behind legalistic terminology."

Los Angeles' mayor and police chief say the decision on the money rests with 20 different groups that agreed to contribute to the $1 million reward.

Watch John Blackstone's full report in the video above.


For more on the legal situation surrounding the reward, "CBS This Morning" turned to CBS News legal analyst Jack Ford. He said on "CBS This Morning" the question now is if the reward is an enforceable contract. He said, "If you don't have a document that's signed by both sides, it can't be a contract, right? The answer is no. You can have a contract, an oral type of contract. As long as both sides, there's was an offer, there was an acceptance, somebody acted as a consequence of that. Starting off, yeah, there can be an enforceable contract here, but the big question is, what's the wording and what do the people on the other side do and does what they did fit within the confines of the wording here?"

However, he acknowledged there may be public pressure to reward the former hostages for their call to authorities. He explained, "The question is we're seeing a little bit of reluctance or a little bit of a suggestion of reluctance. We saw just one of the officials a few moments ago say here's what the deal is -- for the apprehension, capture, and conviction of this guy. Now, if that's what the offer says, and if you don't want to pay it...then argument is 'Well, we didn't get a capture and conviction here. ... Tragically, from this whole story, there's a dead body inside of a building.' The flip side is people are going to walk in and say, 'You know, it's the spirit of this. Know what? We got out there, we were helpful, we were good citizens. We were doing what we wanted to do,' and I think as a consequence, you're going to get people on both sides -- especially people in the public eye -- saying, 'Let's try to work something out because we want citizens to participate, to be able to help out.'"