A 19-year-old University of Illinois-Chicago student was found strangled to death early Nov. 23 morning in a parking garage close to campus.

A tribute and memorial service was held Nov. 25 evening on campus for Indian American teen Ruth George, a long-time resident of Naperville, Illinois. George, who graduated with honors from Naperville High School in 2018 — where she was on the gymnastics team — was studying kinesiology at UIC.

George was the daughter of Vinaya George, who works at a local VA hospital, and had several siblings, cousins, and relatives, many living in Hyderabad, from where the family originally hails.

The medical examiner’s office has determined that George died by strangulation.

Esther George, Ruth’s older sister, mourned the passing of her sibling. “(Ruth) was the light of our family and the best of all of us. She was baptized a few months ago and in hearing her testimony of why she wanted to follow Christ brought great joy to me and my family.”

“She was wise beyond her years and now she is gone to soon. God give us peace,” wrote Esther George in a Facebook post.

Suspect Donald Thurman, 26, identified by surveillance camera footage from various agencies, was taken into custody Nov. 24. He was formally charged Nov. 25 afternoon with first-degree murder and criminal sexual assault.

Thurman was previously convicted in 2016 and charged with armed robbery without a firearm in 2016; he was sentenced to six years in prison. Thurman spent two years and four months in Lincoln Correctional Center in Cook County, Illinois, before he was released on parole on Dec. 28, 2018. He was scheduled to finish his parole on Dec. 30, 2021, according to his record in the Illinois inmate locator.

The University of Illinois-Chicago police department released a statement Nov. 25 with details of the crime. George’s family called police Nov. 23 at 11 a.m. to say they had not heard from their daughter. Police traced her phone to a campus parking garage.

UIC Police and family members arrived at the scene and found George dead in the back seat of a car owned by the family. Police and FBI then retrieved footage from security cameras which showed someone walking behind George as she entered the parking garage on foot at approximately 1:35 a.m.

Thurman was then again seen on video footage at 2:10 a.m. walking out of the garage, according to police. Police then compared parking garage surveillance video footage with that of the Chicago Transit Authority to see if they could establish a travel pattern.

On Nov. 24 morning at 2 a.m., UIC detectives observed Thurman waiting to catch a train near where the crime had occurred. Thurman was taken into custody and subsequently gave a full confession to the crime to detectives, according to UIC police.

UIC Police Chief Kevin Baker said in a statement: “It has been a difficult weekend for our university and the UIC Police Department and I want to send my condolences to Ruth George’s family and friends during this very difficult time.” He thanked the FBI and multiple local law enforcement agencies for their quick response in solving the crime.

UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis also released a statement about the tragic incident. “All of us are devastated by the loss of Ruth George, a member of our honors college and a talented kinesiology student with dreams and aspirations to become a health professional and help others. Our thoughts, our hearts and our condolences are with her family and friends during this trying period,” he said.

“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. The safety and well-being of everyone at UIC is our foremost concern,” said Amiridis, recommending that students take advantage of the prevention tools and resources available on campus and to remain vigilant both on and off campus.

“We are devastated to hear of the passing of Ruth George,” Naperville gymnastics coach Christina Tardy said in a statement released by Naperville School District 203.

“Ruth was such a sweet girl and had the biggest and brightest smile. We loved having her as a member of the NCHS gymnastics team,” Tardy said.

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