NBC 5 Investigates

Family of Murdered 22-Year-Old Speaks Out a Year After Her Death

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says "multiple detectives (are) working the case actively"

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A murder mystery has devastated a local family, and they are speaking out on the one-year anniversary of the brutal slaying.

“I’m talking to you because I don’t want people to forget what happened to Vanessa, “ Carolina Abrams,  Vanessa’s godmother told NBC5 Investigates. “She deserves justice.”

Vanessa Ceja-Ramirez would have turned 23 in September. Her extended family would have celebrated like they had so many times before, but for her godmother Carolina, these are the days when she misses Vanessa the most.

“She liked to dance and our family gatherings for the most part, end up in some type of dancing, and Vanessa would be right there with us dancing,“ she said.

Vanessa loved playing soccer and was devoted to her church youth group at St. Donatus Church in suburban Blue Island. She was a teacher’s aide at Lincoln Elementary in Dixmoor and on her way to college to study education.

One year ago, on Monday November 2, 2020 in the afternoon, Vanessa, her mom and a family friend drove to Midlothian Meadows Forest Preserve to get some exercise before heading to their church. The women walked down the trail for about 20 minutes.

According to her family, Vanessa seemed to get tired and headed back to wait at the car without them. Her family never saw her again.

A massive police search tracked her cell to two different locations in nearby Oak Forest, an apartment complex and a school, but she wasn’t there. 

Two days later, her godmother remembered getting that horrible phone call from police.

“Just getting the call saying they found a body and my husband was standing in the kitchen and he started crying again and then we left,” recalled Carolina.

Vanessa’s body was found back at the forest preserve off the trail in the woods, in an area known to teenagers as a place to party and start fires. The medical examiner’s report indicated that she had been murdered, saying her body was partially burned. Her shoes were also missing, and she had been strangled with a ligature.

At a press conference shortly after, Carolina had strong words for Vanessa’s killer.

“You are a coward, a low life and truly are the scum of the earth," she said.

Cook County detectives have been tight lipped about their investigation, but the family said that they have kept in close contact with them.

NBC5 Investigates spoke with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart about the case.

“We have multiple detectives working on the case actively and I know myself personally they have been running out recent leads, so this is an active case, “ Dart said.

Vanessa’s family said that they want people to know who they lost -- a shy, caring young woman, deeply religious who was about to devote her life to children. While their faith tells them Vanessa is at peace, they are not.

“Whoever did this, is a monster and I’m just concerned whoever did this has done it before or will do it again, “ Carolina said.

Anyone with information on the murder of Vanessa Ceja-Ramirez should contact the Cook County Sheriff’s Office at 708-865-4896.

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