(Sun Times Wire) As hundreds of UIC students gathered Monday night to mourn the death of 19-year-old Ruth George, officials announced a man had been charged with her weekend murder and sexual assault in a campus parking garage.
Donald D. Thurman, 26, was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated sexual assault in connection with the strangulation death of George, University of Illinois at Chicago officials said.
Authorities said Thurman’s most recent home address is near the campus, but he “has no affiliation with the University or the victim.”
“It’s just sad — I won’t be able to see her anymore,” a classmate of hers both at Naperville Central High School and UIC said at the vigil outside a campus building on Harrison Street Monday night, where balloons were released in her memory. Students then went over to the parking garage where she was found at 760 W. Taylor Street, where a memorial with candles, flowers and pictures had been set up.
In social media posts, George’s family and friends remembered her as “the sweetest person” with the “brightest smile.”
“She was the light of our family and the best of all of us,” Esther George wrote on Facebook about her younger sister. “She was wise beyond her years and now she is gone [too] soon. God give us peace.”
After not hearing from her since Friday evening, family members — along with police — had tracked Ruth George’s cell phone to the garage late Saturday morning, where she was found unresponsive in the back seat of her family’s car, authorities said.
Her death was later ruled a homicide. UIC Police Chief Kevin Booker said in a statement that after her body was found investigators reviewed security footage from a variety of cameras in the area and saw the suspect, later identified as Thurman, follow George as she walked south on the 700 block of South Halsted Street into the parking garage about 1:35 a.m. Saturday.
He was later seen leaving the garage at 2:10 a.m. and walking south from the scene. George was reported missing later Saturday morning.
“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’s statement 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.”
They then saw someone who matched the suspect’s description around 2 a.m. Sunday. Officials said he was arrested and confessed to the murder and sexual assault Sunday afternoon.
Thurman was on parole at the time of the attack, according to university police. Illinois Department of Corrections records show he was sentenced to six years in prison for a 2015 armed robbery conviction, but was released on parole in December 2018 after serving just two years.
Dreamed of becoming a PT
UIC Chancellor Michael D. Amiridis said George — who friends called “Ruthie” — was a kinesiology student who friends and professors said “had so much potential.” He said although she had been on campus less than two years, she “already made an impact.”
“Ruthie was an Honors College student who focused on her studies, a young woman who dreamed of becoming a physical therapist to heal people and who was always there to lend a hand to her peers, many of whom would seek her out because of her compassion for others,” Amiridis said in a statement.
The UIC Honors College Advisory Board wrote that “Ruth was a great student, awesome friend and beloved member of the honors college.”
She graduated in 2018 from Naperville Central High School, where she was on the gymnastics team.
She was remembered by coach Christina Tardy as someone “fun to watch compete.”
“Ruth was such a sweet girl and had the biggest and brightest smile,” Tardy said.
Article Org: Chicago.suntimes.com