Donald Thurman was out on parole after being released early from prison for armed robbery

By Harriet Sokmensuer
November 26, 2019 04:40 PM
Ruth George
Credit: Facebook

A man has been charged with the murder of 19-year-old University of Illinois at Chicago honors student Ruth George.

Twenty-six-year-old Donald Thurman was charged with first-degree murder and criminal sexual assault for allegedly killing George, who was found in the backseat of a car parked in a campus parking garage Saturday, according to a UIC police news release obtained by PEOPLE.

George’s family had reported her missing and UIC police were able to locate her in the garage after tracking her cell phone.

At a hearing on Tuesday, prosecutors alleged that Thurman attacked George after she ignored his repeated catcalls, the Chicago Tribune reports.

In court, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said Thurman became “angry he was being ignored” after catcalling and trying to talk to George. He then allegedly followed her to her car, where he grabbed her neck, put her in a chokehold and threw her to the ground, causing her to hit her head on the pavement. He then allegedly threw George into the back of her car, where he allegedly sexually assaulted her while she was unconscious, the Tribune reports.

George’s strangulation death was ruled a homicide by the Cook County Medical Examiner, according to police.

Police say surveillance cameras show George enter the parking garage alone shortly after 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, being closely followed by Thurman. At 2:10 a.m. Thurman is seen leaving the parking garage.

On Sunday, investigators located Thurman and took him into custody, where he later allegedly confessed to the “horrific crime,” Kevin Booker, UIC Chief of Police, said in the news release.

Thurman is not affiliated with the university.

George was a sophomore honors student majoring in kinesiology and had hoped to be a health professional. One student told a local news station George may have been out late studying on the night of her death.

“Considering that it’s finals time, a lot of people do study at the library pretty late and I think a lot of people choose that lot because it’s right there,” UIC senior Danielle Perkins told WSL-TV. “It really hurts because it could have been anybody.”

“Our hope is no other girl would be harmed in this way and for a mother to never experience this type of heartache,” George’s family said in a statement, according to CBS Chicago. “Ruth lived out her deep faith in Jesus by loving and serving others, leaving a legacy of Christ-centered kindness and sacrifice. She was the beloved baby of our family.”

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George was from Naperville, Illinois, where she graduated from Naperville Central High School in 2018, according to her Facebook page.

“Ruth was such a sweet girl and had the biggest and brightest smile,” the high school’s gymnastics coach Christina Tardy said, according to Fox 32 Chicago. “We loved having her as a member of the NCHS gymnastics team and she was so fun to watch compete, especially on the floor exercise. She was a great teammate and we are going to miss her dearly.”

Thurman has a criminal record, according to police. In December, he was released from prison after serving two years behind bars for armed robbery. He was sentenced to six years, but was released early and was out on parole at the time of George’s death.

At Tuesday’s court hearing, a judge denied him bond, according to CBS Chicago.

His attorney information was not available Tuesday. His next court date is set for December 16.