Hours after the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women, a Chicago teen was found strangled to death in a campus parking garage at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) last month. The death of 19-year-old kinesiology student Ruth George has sparked outrage and calls for justice.
George’s family contacted police after being unable to reach her, which resulted in authorities tracking her phone to a parking garage near the school’s library, quad, and engineering facilities, according to a statement by UIC Police Chief Kevin Booker. When officials arrived at the scene, George was found unresponsive in the back seat of her family’s car.
“Our investigation has determined that Ms. George was alone when she entered the Halsted Street Parking Garage on Nov. 23 at approximately 1:35 a.m. A person of interest entered the garage shortly after Ms. George,” Booker said.
Video footage retrieved by campus police showed George being followed into the garage by a man. Approximately 30 minutes later, the man left. After reviewing footage from the Chicago Transit Authority and other police cameras to determine travel patterns, authorities said they saw a person matching the description of the attacker at a nearby train station.
Donald D. Thurman, 26, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and aggravated sexual assault the following day in connection with George’s death, CNN reported. According to Booker, Thurman has no ties to the university. He was released from prison on parole last year after serving two years of a six-year sentence for armed robbery. He admitted to the attack in custody, saying he “knew that his DNA would be all over the scene.”
According to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, the cause of George’s death was strangulation. In a court filing asking that bail be denied, prosecutors said Thurman saw George walking past a subway stop and thought she was “pretty and tried talking to her, but the victim ignored him.”
Thurman then followed George to her car and tried calling to her again, but when she continued to ignore him, Thurman grew angry, the document said. Thurman’s anger caused him to physically and sexually assault George before killing her. “The defendant came up behind the victim, grabbed her around the neck from behind, and put her into a choke hold,” Cook County assistant state’s attorney James Murphy said.
At the Nov. 26 bail hearing, prosecutors said that after dragging George into the back seat of the car, Thurman sexually assaulted her and left her face-down on the rear seat.
Violence against women is a widespread phenomenon and a human rights violation, and it is often unreported due to the stigma, silence, and shame surrounding it. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, which includes crimes that were not reported to the police, more than 600 women are sexually assaulted in the U.S. each day. The murder of Ruth George has caused fear to spread within Chicago’s largest university student body (which consists of more than 30,000 students) and has highlighted the importance of addressing gender-based violence.
“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,” university Chancellor Michael Amiridis said. “I hope that this tragic event brings our community together to watch over and care for each other in the days and weeks ahead.”
Thurman has been ordered held without bail pending a hearing on Dec. 16.
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