"The abuse of women and girls is the most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation on earth."
It was the 23rd of November 2019. A Saturday. Nineteen year old Ruth George went to an event the night before but should have been home early that Saturday morning. When her family discovered she wasn't home, they were worried about her.
The night of the 22nd of November, Ruth went to an event that was put on by Delta Epsilon Mu which was a fraternity for future medical professionals at the University. Ruth was a second year honors student at the University of Illinois in Chicago, United States. She was a kinesiology student and hoped to become a physical therapist. She wanted to heal people.
Ruth loved to go to events and meet new people. It was her welcoming and friendly nature that people knew Ruth for. When she was a member of the gymnastics team, she would make every new member feel very welcome and feel like they belonged on the team. The music she chose for her floor routine in gymnastics was a song by Beyoncé- “Run the World (Girls).” She believed that for women to succeed, they all needed to work together to lift each other up. And when any of her friends needed her, Ruth was always there. She was sincere. A quality which is rather rare.
That night, the night of the 22nd of November, Ruth went to the event with a friend and they both took a Lyft back to the UIC-Halsted stop at the University.
Ruth and her friend then separated as they were both going to their respective homes. Her friend lived in one of the dorms on campus so she made her way there and Ruth headed towards the campus garage where her car was parked.
The Campus Garage
That was the last time her friend saw her.
When Ruth's family still had not heard from her by 11 am on the Saturday morning, they reported her missing to the police. Her sisters and friends traced Ruth's mobile phone and the location pinged to the garage. They went there with the police and found Ruth's car still parked there.
Ruth was in the back of the car. Her body was cold and she was unresponsive. Some of her clothes had been removed.Ruth was face down on the back seat, her pants were pulled down and her Spanx were ripped. Her body suit had been pulled to the side.
Her sisters tried to resuscitate her. Despite their best efforts to try to save her, it was too late. Ruth was declared dead at the scene.
Police discovered drag marks from Ruth's shoes at the scene. It was clear that some sort of a struggle had taken place. They found a condom and semen in the car.
Ruth's cause of death was determined as a homicide caused by strangulation. She had been sexually assaulted and murdered.
Police obtained all the surveillance footage from the area. Some of the footage showed Ruth and her friend going their separate ways as her friend had told them.
Video from inside a campus building showed a man walking by, and on another camera, he is seen walking down Halsted Street.
The campus police reviewed the video footage from the University cameras. They made a terrifying discovery. As Ruth walked along the street towards the garage, that same man from the earlier footage was seen walking behind Ruth. It was 1.34 am. When Ruth entered the garage, he followed her 47 seconds later.
Thirty five minutes after they both entered the garage, the man is again captured on surveillance footage. He is seen running from the parking garage alone and then making his way through the University campus.
Police reviewed video footage from the Chicago Transit Authority and other cameras in the area to try to determine the travel patterns of the man they were looking for. They believed that if they focused on the Blue line station, they would find him as he regularly used the Blue line. They were correct.
They saw someone who matched the suspect’s description around 2 am the day after Ruth's body was found. He was arrested. Twenty six year old Donald Thurman was brought to the station to be questioned.
Police have said that Donald confessed to the murder and sexual assault of Ruth George. The distinctive white jacket that he was wearing in the surveillance footage was later found at his home.
Cook County Prosecutors say that Donald saw Ruth at the UIC-Halsted stop at the University and thought she was pretty. He wanted to talk to her. Ruth ignored him and that made him angry. He catcalled her at the bus stop and then followed her into the UIC parking garage. According to Donald, Ruth continued to ignore him and as she tried to get into her car, he attacked her from behind. He got her into a chokehold until she passed out. They both fell to the ground.
Cook County Assistant State's Attorney James Murphy detailed what happened next:
"With his arms still wrapped around the victim's neck the defendant dragged the victim from the ground and he opened her back seat car door."
Donald then threw Ruth on to the back seat of her car. She was lying face down. Ruth was unconscious but that didn't stop Donald from sexually assaulting her.
Cook County Assistant State's Attorney James Murphy said:
"While Ruth was facedown and unconscious, Donald pulled down her pants and underwear. The defendant then penetrated the victim’s vagina with his tongue and then his finger.”
Donald told investigators that he put on a condom, but did not have intercourse with Ruth. Police found that condom in Ruth's car and there was semen present.
Donald told police that he knew his DNA would be all over the scene. Police found DNA and a palm print in the car.
Donald did not know Ruth George. He had never seen her before. Donald did not attend that University and did not know anything about who Ruth was or what she did. He simply saw her that night and by his own account, he was angry when she ignored his catcall.
At the time of Ruth's murder, Donald was on parole for armed robbery. He was sentenced to six years for the armed robbery but released after just two years.
Ruth George and her mother
Ruth's mother issued a statement after her daughter's murder:
"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. 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."
Ruth's fraternity, Delta Epsilon Mu, posted a message on their Facebook page. They referred to Ruth as "Baby Color":
"That was the perfect name for her because she brought color into the lives of everyone around her."
Donald Thurman was charged with first degree murder and sexual assault.Judge Charles Beach II ordered Donald to be held without bail.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello
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