Ruth George was a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago who was found dead in her car in a garage at UIC after being reported missing by her family on Saturday, November 23, 2019, authorities said. She was strangled, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said.
George, 19, was found at the Halsted Street Parking Garage near Taylor Street, police said. She was from Naperville, Illinois, and was a sophomore at UIC. She lived in Berwyn, Illinois, police said. The suspect was taken into custody on Sunday, November 24. He was identified on Monday as 26-year-old Donald Thurman.
Thurman was charged with first-degree murder and criminal sexual assault, police said. “His most recent address was near the UIC campus. He has no affiliation with the University or the victim,” police said.
Prosecutors said Thurman was “angry” that George did not respond to his catcalls and ignored him, The Associated Press reports.
George’s cause of death was then ruled as homicide and her manner of death as strangulation. City, state and federal agencies are assisting UIC Police in the investigation.
UIC is a public university on Chicago’s Near West Side adjacent to the Chicago Loop. With 33,000 students, it is the largest university in the Chicago area.
“It is very difficult to find words that can express the sadness our entire community experiences today following the news of the tragic death of a 19-year-old undergraduate student,” UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis said in a statement. “We offer our sincere condolences to the student’s family and friends and I know that all of us have them in our hearts as they struggle with this devastating loss.”
Ruth George Was Found Dead After Police Tracked Her Location Using Her Cell Phone
Ruth George was reported missing by her family about 11 a.m. on November 23, UIC Police said. Her family told police she had not been seen or heard from since the evening of Friday, November 22.
“Her phone was ‘pinged’ to UIC’s Halsted Street Parking Garage and UIC Police responded with members of her family to find Ms. George unresponsive in the back seat of a family-owned vehicle,” UIC Police Chief Kevin Booker said in a statement. “Our investigation has determined that Ms. George was alone when she entered the Halsted Street Parking Garage on November 23 at approximately 1:35 a.m. A person of interest entered the garage shortly after Ms. George.”
George was found dead in the backseat of her car.
Booker added, “We are working with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners in this ongoing death investigation. Anyone with information related to the investigation should call UIC Police at 312-996-2830.”
An autopsy was conducted on Sunday and the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said that George had been strangled.
According to Booker, investigators obtained video footage from university cameras. The video showed the suspect, identified as Donald Thurman, walking behind George as she walked south from the 700 block of Halsted Street at 1:34 a.m. on November 23. George entered the garage on foot about 1:35 a.m. and was followed by Thurman, Booker said. Thurman is then seen again on video footage walking southbound on Halsted Street on the west side of the street about 2:10 a.m., police said.
“UIC Police then reviewed video footage from the Chicago Transit Authority, the Chicago POD cameras and our own internal system to determine travel patterns for the offender,” Booker said. “Based on these observations, UIC Police detectives decided to watch the Blue line station during the hours that the offender had previously traveled on the Blue line.”
Booker said, “The offender has a criminal record and was released from prison in December 2018 for armed robbery. He was sentenced to 6 years, but only served two and is currently on parole.”
“The offender was taken into custody and subsequently gave a full confession to this horrific crime at approximately 3:20 p.m. on the same day, November 24,” Chief Booker said.
Booker said, “UIC Police are committed to safety and security for all UIC students, faculty, staff, and visitors and we encourage you to take advantage of the University’s prevention tools and safety resources.”
Thurman is being held without bail.
UIC’s Chancellor Said the ‘Traumatic Loss of Life of One of Our Community Members Is Very Difficult to Comprehend’
UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis said in a message to the university community, “The traumatic loss of life of one of our community members is very difficult to comprehend and surely invokes a range of emotions for all of us. The safety and well-being of everyone at UIC is our foremost concern. I encourage you to continue to take advantage of the prevention tools and resources available on campus and to remain vigilant while you are both on and off campus.”
Amiridis added, “As we mourn the loss of our student, I hope that this tragic event brings our community together to watch over and care for each other in the days and weeks ahead.”
He said, “I want to thank the members of the UIC Police Department, who have worked around-the-clock to investigate the circumstances surrounding Ruth’s death. This is an ongoing investigation but the evidence they have collected so far indicates that Ruth was a victim of crime and they have a person of interest in custody.”
George Graduated From Naperville Central High School in 2018 & Was Studying Kinesiology at UIC
Ruth George graduated from Naperville Central High School in 2018, according to her Facebook page. She was a Naperville native.
George was studying kinesiology and was in her second year at UIC, officials said.
“All of us are devastated by the loss of Ruth George, a member of our Honors College and a talented kinesiology student with dreams and aspirations to become a health professional and help others. Our thoughts, our hearts and our condolences are with her family and friends during this trying period,” Chancellor Amiridis said in a statement.
George was a member of the Delta Epsilon Mu-Psi Chapter, a co-ed fraternity for students pursuing degrees in health-related fields.
“To us, she was just Ruthie. She joined DEM in 2018 as a part of our Iota class and we will never forget how big her smile was when she was named ‘Rangi Mtoto’ or Baby Color. That was the perfect name for her because she brought color into the lives of everyone around her,” DEM said in a statement. “Ruthie was an intelligent, caring and humorous girl that was loved by all. The impact she had to her friends, family and the members of the Delta Epsilon Mu -Psi Chapter and will always remain in our hearts. We will never forget her and the bright future she had ahead of her. We hope that she is in peace and watching over all of us.”
George’s Family Says She Was a ‘Loving & Wonderful Daughter, Sister & Cousin
Ruth George’s sister, Esther George, wrote on Facebook, “She was the light of our family and the best of all of us. She was baptized a few months ago and in hearing her testimony of why she wanted to follow Christ brought great joy to me and my family. She was wise beyond her years and now she is gone to soon. God give us peace.”
A family member, Sunaina Deborah, wrote on Facebook, “Dearest Ruthie baby…. we miss you…just not able to believe you’re no more.. You were a loving and wonderful daughter, sister and cousin..Rest in peace Ruth George … we love you…” She also posted a video of George speaking in church.
“Ruth was such a sweet girl and had the biggest and brightest smile,” Naperville gymnastics coach Christina Tardy told Fox 32 Chicago. “We loved having her as a member of the NCHS gymnastics team and she was so fun to watch compete, especially on the floor exercise. She was a great teammate and we are going to miss her dearly.”
A memorial was set up on the UIC campus.
A vigil was held Monday night at the campus.