A $4,000 reward is being offered for information about the killing of Vanessa Ceja-Ramirez, a 22-year-old woman who was found strangled last week at a Midlothian forest preserve after she went missing two days earlier.
Community activist Raul Montes Jr. said Ceja-Ramirez’s violent death was “unfathomable” as he spoke to reporters just steps from where her body was found in the Midlothian Meadows forest preserve, 15300 S. Crawford Ave. in the south suburb.
“According to police and authorities, it is presumed that there is foul play involved,” Montes said while offering to match the $2,000 reward that had already been pledged. “This has caused a lot of anxiety [and] panic throughout this this area. … Who would have the heart to do this to this innocent woman that was walking through this forest preserve?”
Citing media reports, Montes offered a series of grisly details of the alleged circumstances surrounding Ceja-Ramirez’s killing. Andrew Holmes, a community activist who put up the initial reward money, later echoed some of those claims, saying Ceja-Ramirez was tortured and her body was partially burnt.
“I do know her hands were bound, she was beaten and strangled,” noted Holmes, who said he has been in contact with her family. However, Cook County officials haven't confirmed many of those details.
Ceja-Ramirez went missing last Monday after walking in the forest preserve with her mother and a friend, according to Midlothian police and the Missing Persons Awareness Network. Her cellphone last pinged Tuesday at an apartment complex in nearby Oak Forest, according to the Cook County Forest Preserve’s police department.
Her body was then found Wednesday afternoon inside the forest preserve, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. An autopsy the following day found she died from of asphyxiation due to ligature strangulation.
The Cook County sheriff’s office is conducting a homicide investigation, though a spokesman declined to answer specific questions about the case on Sunday.
Members of Ceja-Ramirez’s family couldn’t immediately be reached or declined to comment. Meanwhile, a GoFundMe account set up to cover her funeral costs has now raised over $27,000.
“Vanessa was a quiet, beautiful and loving person who will be missed dearly by everyone who knew her,” the page reads. “There is nothing that can ever explain the loss of a wonderful person at such a young age.”
Anyone with information about Ceja-Ramirez’s whereabouts should call the sheriff’s office at (708) 865-4896 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tipsters can also contact Holmes at (800) 883-5587.