It’s an experience not unfamiliar to many women: walking past, and ignoring, a stranger’s catcalls. It’s so common that our responses are automatic—a sharp retort, maybe, or an exasperated eye roll. Many of us show no reaction at all, turning up the music in our headphones or continuing to stare straight ahead at the path in front of us; expecting that in a few steps, the nonsense, the awkwardness, the feeling of trespass, will be drowned out.
That is not what happened to 19-year-old Ruth George, a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Chicago who was killed and raped, police say, after not responding to a man’s catcalls.
Donald Thurman, 26, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and sexual assault and ordered to be held without bail earlier this week, reports USA Today. According to Cook County Asst. State’s Attorney James Murphy, Thurman became enraged after being ignored.
Murphy said Thurman followed George into a campus parking garage around 2 a.m. Saturday morning.
“The defendant came up behind the victim, grabbed her around the neck from behind, and put her into a choke hold,” he said. “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.”
There, police say, he sexually assaulted an unconscious George and killed her. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office determined she was strangled to death.
George’s family reported her missing to campus police on Saturday, who tracked her phone to the parking garage, where she was found dead.
According to ABC Chicago, surveillance video shows Thurman following George into the parking garage, police said. His palm print and DNA evidence also linked him to George’s killing.
“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 on Tuesday, reports The Daily Beast.“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.”
They added that hold “no hatred” toward Thurman.
Her death has sent shockwaves throughout the campus, where hundreds of students, staff, and faculty attended a vigil for George on Monday night. Across UIC, yellow ribbons were hung in remembrance of her “bright spirit,” writes USA Today (George’s nickname was “Baby Color,” her fraternity, Delta Epsilon Mu, wrote).
“All of us are devastated by the loss of Ruth George, a member of our Honors College and a talented kinesiology student with dreams and aspirations to become a health professional and help others,” UIC Chancellor Michael D. Amiridis said in a statement.
At the vigil, Natalie Bennett, director of the school’s Women’s Leadership and Resource Center, recited a poem dedicated to George, USA Today reports. Recently, the center hosted a discussion on women of color and violence, Bennett told attendees.
George had been one of the organizers.