UNIVERSITY VILLAGE — When she first heard that a 19-year-old UIC student Ruth George was murdered over the weekend, sophomore Samantha Hernandez said she was “shaken up.”
“It’s pretty scary,” Hernandez said. “With stories of women being sex trafficked and abused, it’s scary.”
Hernandez found out a student was murdered on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus on the school’s public safety app Wildfire. Shortly after, the school sent out an email notifying students about the death, Hernandez remembered.
At 11 a.m. Saturday, George’s family informed UIC Police they had not heard from her since Friday night, UIC Police Chief Kevin Booker said in a statement.
After her phone was traced to a UIC parking garage at 761 W. Polk St., police tragically found her dead in the backseat of a family-owned vehicle, officials said.
George, a 2018 graduate of Naperville Central High School from Berwyn, died of strangulation, according to Natalia Derevyanny, a spokeswoman for the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
George was alone when she entered the parking garage at 1:35 a.m. Saturday, UIC P0lice said. A person entered the parking garage shortly after, Booker said.
Police have a person of interest who is not affiliated with the university is in custody, Booker said.
“We believe that she was a victim of foul play,” Booker said.
Booker said they are working with federal, state and local law enforcement to investigate her death.
UIC Police are committed to the safety and security of students, faculty and visitors, Booker said. UIC officials declined to say if police would have an increased presence on campus or if other security measures were being taken in light of George’s murder.
But days after the student was found strangled to death, some students worried about their safety.
While school officials have assured students that they were “working diligently” on the case, Hernandez wondered whether the university could step up police patrols or if more cameras could deter crime on campus. A handful of recent robberies have targeted UIC students, she said.
UIC Junior Juan Serrano said George’s death was “really messed up.”
Despite security measures like emergency call boxes and shuttle busses for students, “it still happened…It’s scary.”
Freshman Sinai Barraza said students were “distraught” after hearing the news.
“It’s scary that something like this could happen on campus,” he said.
Junior Danielle Cortes called the tragic death “unfortunate” and “surreal.”
Cortes wondered if UIC Police planned to host meetings for students to inform them about crimes happening on campus. Self-defense classes could be helpful, too, she said.
In a letter, University Chancellor Michael Amiridis said the school was “devastated by the loss.” George, a kinesiology student, was a member of the University’s Honors College, wanted to become a health professional.
“Our thoughts, our hearts and our condolences are with her family and friends during this trying period,” Amiridis said in a statement. “…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.”
Amiridis encouraged students, staff and faculty to take advantage of the crime-prevention tools on campus and reminded them to “remain vigilant both on and off-campus.”
“Safety and well-being of everyone at UIC is our foremost concern,” he said.
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