A Chicago man has been charged in the slaying of Ruth George, the University of Illinois at Chicago honors student who was discovered strangled to death in the backseat of her family car over the weekend.
Donald Thurman, 26, was formally charged with first-degree murder and aggravated sexual assault in the death of George, 19, University of Illinois at Chicago officials confirmed, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.
While Thurman’s recent residence was near the institution’s city campus, officials stressed that he “has no affiliation with the University or the victim.”
Thurman was previously convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to prison, but he was released in December 2018 and was on parole at the time of George's murder, according to ABC News' Chicago affiliate.
George's family first became worried when they couldn’t reach the promising kinesiology student from Berwyn, Illinois, and filed a report with campus police at around 11 a.m. Saturday. Campus police, along with George's relatives, tracked George’s cell phone pings to the garage and discovered her “unresponsive” body in the rear seat of the family car, CBS News Chicago reported. Medics were summoned to the garage but they couldn't revive her.
On Sunday, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled George’s death a homicide by strangulation and authorities continued their investigation via the use of surveillance video of the garage where George was found dead.
The university police initially reported someone entering the Halsted Street Garage in downtown Chicago shortly after George entered around 1:30 a.m on Saturday.
In a statement, UIC Police Chief Kevin Booker explained that investigators reviewed security footage from several surveillance cameras and allegedly spotted Thurman trailing George as she walked south of South Halsted Street into the parking garage at around 1:30 a.m., according to The Chicago Sun-Times.
Thurman reappeared about 40 minutes later, and was witnessed exiting the garage on foot and heading south, the publication reported.
“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 stated. “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.”
Police say Thurman confessed to the murder after he was taken into custody, NBC News reported.
The news came as UIC students raised balloons at a vigil held at Harrison Street on Monday night to memorialize George.
“It’s just sad — I won’t be able to see her anymore,” a fellow classmate of George, both at her alma mater of Naperville Central High School and UIC, told The Sun-Times during the vigil.
Students soon amassed at the parking garage where George was last seen alive and set up candles, flowers and pictures.
In a statement, UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis expressed his grief of losing George, fondly known by her friends as “Ruthie.”
He said that George “had so much potential” and although she had only attended UIC for less than two years, he said 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,” he added.
Thurman will go before a judge next Tuesday, according to ABC Chicago. He remains in custody and it was not immediately clear if he he has an attorney who can comment on his behalf.
George's family has asked for privacy.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.