A man has been charged with murdering and sexually assaulting a UIC freshman who was found dead over the weekend in a parking garage on the school’s Near West Side campus.
Donald D. Thurman, 26, is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated sexual assault in connection with the strangulation death of 19-year-old Ruth George, according to University of Illinois at Chicago officials.
Authorities said Thurman’s most recent home address is near the campus, but he “has no affiliation with the University or the victim.”
The charges were announced shortly before a vigil was scheduled to be held at 7 p.m. Monday at UIC’s Student Center East, 750 S. Halsted St., according to a Facebook post from the Honors College, where she was a student.
In social media posts earlier Monday, 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.”
UIC Police Chief Kevin Booker said in a statement that 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.
“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
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.