Family members of the University of Illinois-Chicago student found dead in a parking garage over the weekend said Tuesday that they hold "no hatred" toward her alleged killer as they "grieve with hope."
Ruth George "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 through a spokeswoman.
George's family reported her missing on Saturday after not hearing from her since the night before, according to police. At around 11:15 a.m. Saturday, 19-year-old George, of Berwyn, was found unresponsive inside of her family-owned car in the Halsted Street Parking Garage in the 700 block of West Taylor Street, police said.
George was pronounced dead at the scene. The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office later determined that George died as a result of strangulation, and ruled her death a homicide.
"She was the beloved baby of our family," George's family's statement continued. "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."
George was a member of UIC's Honors College and a "talented kinesiology student with dreams and aspirations to become a health professional and help others," UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis said in a statement. "Our thoughts, our hearts and our condolences are with her family and friends during this trying period."
Donald Thurman, 26, was charged Monday with first-degree murder and criminal sexual assault in connection with George's death, UIC Chief of Police Kevin Booker said. Authorities said Thurman has no affiliation with George or the university.
Authorities say university cameras showed Thurman walking behind George at approximately 1:35 a.m. on Saturday and following closely behind her as she entered the parking garage.
Thurman was then seen again on security video footage walking southbound on Halsted Street at around 2:10 a.m., according to police.
UIC police say that they reviewed cameras around campus, Chicago police cameras, as well as security footage from the Chicago Transit Authority to determine Thurman's travel patterns.
Detectives learned that Thurman frequented the Blue Line and decided to watch the Blue Line station during hours in which he had previously traveled there, officials said.
At around 2 a.m. Sunday, UIC police said investigators saw Thurman near the Blue Line train station at Halsted and Harrison streets and took him into custody.
That afternoon at around 3:20 p.m., UIC police said Thurman gave a full confession of the crime.
Authorities said Thurman was previously convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to six years in prison, but only served two and was released from prison in December 2018. He was on parole at the time of the crime, officials said.
Thurman was expected to appear before a judge in court late Tuesday morning.