A 22-year-old woman was brutally attacked and killed in a nature preserve near Chicago and police are looking for the killer.
Vanessa Ceja-Ramirez was at Midlothian Meadows Forest with her mother and a friend on November 2, according to the Associated Press. The three women were walking one of the preserve’s trails when Ceja-Ramirez decided to go back to the car about halfway through the walk, the AP reported.
But at some point between leaving her mother and the friend and reaching the car, Ceja-Ramirez was attacked.
That was not initially known, however. For two days, all that was known was that Ceja-Ramirez was missing. When her mother and the friend returned to the car, Ceja-Ramirez was not there and she was unreachable by phone. Her mother filed a missing person’s report, describing her daughter as 5’5 and 115 pounds with brown eyes and long brown hair with bangs.
“Please help me find my daughter,” the flier said.
The Worst Possible Outcome Was Realized When Ceja-Ramirez’s Body Was Found & the Medical Examiner Said She’d Been Strangled to Death
Body found in Midlothian Meadows Forest Preserve, HAS been positively identified as Vanessa Ceja-Ramirez.
— Chicago Missing, Cold Cases, and Unsolved (@ChiMissingCases) November 5, 2020
On November 4 a group of volunteers who were helping in the search efforts at the preserve found Ceja-Ramirez’s partially burned body, according to The Daily Mail, who reported the Medical Examiner said the college student was killed by ligature strangulation and had been raped.
However, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office told Heavy they are only allowed to release preliminary information at this time which is that Ceja-Ramirez’s death was ruled a homicide by ligature strangulation, which means to be strangled with a cord, rope, or something that can be wrapped around the neck.
Fox News reported the young woman was also set on fire, as did well-known Chicago community activist Andrew Holmes.
He told ABC 7 in Chicago, “Basically the information we have obtained, Vanessa was strangled. She was tortured. Very shocking. No one should have to go through torture or getting beat and burned,” Holmes said.
Ceja-Ramirez’s body was found about four miles west from where she was last seen in the Bremen Grove area of the park, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Investigators picked up a ping from Ceja-Ramirez’s phone near an apartment building two miles away from where she went missing in an area called Oak Forest, but “a police canvass found nothing,” ABC 7 reported.
A Killer Is on the Loose in Chicago But Police Won’t Comment on Whether They Think It’s the Same Person Who Strangled More Than 50 Women Since 2001
With the investigation being open, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office told Heavy they won’t comment on the case outside of the statement they released on November 5, which can be read at the bottom of this article. The statement does not allude to any clues as to who they think could have committed such a heinous crime.
According to CBS Chicago, there has been a pattern of unsolved murders by strangulation in the Chicago area since 2001.
“…their bodies have been found in vacant lots, abandoned buildings, and alleys. Some were dumped in garbage cans, and some even set on fire; all of them strangled,” CBS Chicago wrote. The news organization enlisted the help of the Murder Accountability Project during their investigation into a possible serial killer stalking Chicago.
The Murder Accountability Project found in a review of more than 50 cases of strangulation or asphyxiation killing from 2001 to 2019, “It’s essentially a serial killer detector, and for many years our algorithm has been signaling red alert about a series of strangulations in Chicago,” Murder Accountability Project Director Thomas Hargrove told CBS Chicago.
In those cases, the women were usually prostitutes or drug addicts, and while Ceja-Ramirez didn’t fit that mold — she was a teacher’s aide and college student who went on walks in the woods with her mother — it stands to reason that serial killers are opportunists.
The slain woman’s uncle, Alejandro Villegas, described his niece to ABC 7 saying, “She’s just somebody that we believed in, that had our future in her hands, just like most of our kids here. She was a sweet child that was humble, smiled, shy. She was a good person. And she just didn’t deserve anything of this.”
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with any information about what happened to Ceja-Ramirez to call 708-865-4896.
You can read the full statement from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office below:
Yesterday, an autopsy conducted by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that Vanessa Ceja Ramirez, 22, of Harvey, died of strangulation, and her death was ruled a homicide.
Ceja Ramirez was reported missing on Monday afternoon after she disappeared from the Midlothian Meadows Forest Preserve.
Cook County Forest Preserve District Police, with assistance from the Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies, searched the forest preserve on Monday evening. A Sheriff’s Police K9 unit was able to detect a scent trail, but the trail dissipated and the search was unsuccessful.
Cook County Forest Preserve Police continued their missing persons investigation until Wednesday afternoon when the body of Ceja Ramirez was discovered in a wooded area at the Midlothian Meadows forest preserve. At that point, Sheriff’s Police opened a death investigation at the request of Cook County Forest Preserve Police. The investigation is ongoing, and anyone with information about her disappearance or death are asked to please contact Sheriff’s Police detectives by calling 708-865-4896 or via email at email@example.com.