A man charged with strangling a 19-year-old University of Illinois at Chicago student last weekend in a campus parking garage allegedly became angry and put her into a chokehold when she refused to talk to him or acknowledge his catcalls.
Donald Thurman, 26, spotted Ruth George as she walked by a CTA Blue Line station near the campus early Saturday morning, Cook County prosecutors said at his bail hearing Tuesday at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
Thurman “thought she was pretty” and attempted to talk to George as he followed her to a parking garage at 760 W. Taylor St., prosecutors said. About 1:25 a.m. Saturday, George was at her car when Thurman allegedly came up behind her and put her into a chokehold until she passed out.
After dragging her into the back seat of the car, Thurman sexually assaulted her and left her face down on the rear seat, prosecutors said. George’s body was discovered later Saturday morning by her sisters and police, who tracked her cellphone after she was reported missing, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said.
The Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled her death a homicide by strangulation.
Thurman was taken into custody early Sunday when police spotted him in the area and later admitted to the attack, saying that he “knew that his DNA would be all over the scene,” Murphy said.
Thurman was charged with first-degree murder and criminal sexual assault and ordered held without bail by Judge Charles Beach II.
Prosecutors said they recovered a palm print from the Kia that matched Thurman and said he could clearly be seen on surveillance video from the CTA station and parking garage wearing a distinctive white jacket. A condom was also recovered from the floorboard of George’s car and the white jacket was found in a home where Thurman was staying, Murphy said.
George, of Berwyn, was a sophomore at UIC, where she was on the honor roll, Murphy said. Just before her attack, she had gone to a event with a friend for students on a medical track. A Lyft driver dropped off George and her friend near the campus, and George walked back to her car alone while her friend walked to a dorm.
”Ruth lived out her deep faith in Jesus by loving and serving others, leaving a legacy of Christ-centered kindness and sacrifice,” her family said in a statement Tuesday. “She was the beloved baby of our family. We grieve with hope. We hold no hatred towards the perpetrator, but our hope is no other girl would be harmed in this way and for a mother to never experience this type of heartache.”
Prosecutors said Thurman was on parole at the time of the attack for a 2016 conviction for armed robbery. He was released in December 2018 after serving two years of a six-year sentence, authorities said.
Thurman had been living in DeKalb after his release but was having trouble finding work and moved to the city, his assistant public defender said in court. Thurman had been working odd jobs, including cleaning kennels for Chicago Animal Care and Control and as a dishwasher.
Police listed Thurman’s most recent address as just off UIC’s campus, but his public defender said he had essentially been homeless recently and was moving between houses.
His next court appearance was set for Dec. 16.