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Chicago campus on edge after teen student found strangled in parking garage

The University of Illinois at Chicago campus was on edge Monday after 19-year-old kinesiology student Ruth George was found strangled to death in a parking garage over the weekend.

Donald D. Thurman, 26, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and aggravated sexual assault in connection with George’s death, according to a statement from UIC Police Chief Kevin Booker. Thurman has no ties to the university, Booker said. It is unclear when he will appear in court and whether he has an attorney.

After George’s family reported to police Saturday morning that the sophomore had not been heard from since the night before, authorities tracked her phone to a parking garage near the school’s library, quad and engineering facilities, Booker said.

“Our investigation has determined that Ms. George was alone when she entered the Halsted Street Parking Garage on Nov. 23 at approximately 1:35 a.m. A person of interest entered the garage shortly after Ms. George,” Booker’s statement said.

George’s cause of death was strangulation, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said.

“The traumatic loss of life of one of our community members is very difficult to comprehend and surely invokes a range of emotions for all of us,” university Chancellor Michael Amiridis said. “I hope that this tragic event brings our community together to watch over and care for each other in the days and weeks ahead.”

University police are working with local, state and federal partners in their investigation, Booker said. Anyone with information about the killing should contact authorities.

Students told CNN affiliate WBBM-TV that the incident has left them frightened.

“Now everybody is worrying about their safety and stuff like that,” junior Karan Patel told the station.

“There are students that are still scared about it, of going outside,” senior Parind Petiwale said.

Because final exams begin December 9, a lot of students are staying late studying at the library, and many students park in the deck where George was found because it’s nearby, senior Danielle Perkins told CNN affiliate WLS.

“Could have been any of the students,” she told the station. “Could have been my friends. Could have been me, and that’s the scariest part.”

The school chancellor described George — whose friends called her “Ruthie” — as an honors student “who dreamed of becoming a physical therapist to heal people and who was always there to lend a hand to her peers, many of whom would seek her out because of her compassion for others.”

George graduated last year from Naperville Central High School in the Chicago suburbs, about 30 miles west of the university.

Located on the city’s Near West Side, the university boasts Chicago’s largest student body with more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

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