A 19-year-old Indian American student was sexually assaulted and then strangled in Chicago by a 26-year-old man, who has since been arrested. The teen, originally from Hyderabad, was a student at the University of Illinois.
She was found dead in the back seat of her family-owned vehicle in a campus garage on Saturday. The assailant, Donald Thurman, was arrested on Sunday from a Chicago metro station. He has been formally charged with first-degree murder and aggravated sexual assault.
The family of the victim had reported to the University Police on Saturday that she had not been heard from since Friday evening. Her phone was "pinged" to the Halsted Street Parking Garage, and police and family members responded to find her unresponsive in the back seat of a vehicle owned by her family.
Police then requested assistance from the FBI Evidence Response Team to assist in the processing of the crime scene and to complete forensics on the vehicle. According to the university, police retrieved video footage from existing university cameras of the offender who was seen walking behind the teen on Saturday.
CCTV footage helps in the investigation
She was seen entering a garage on foot at around 1.30 am, followed by the assailant. He is then seen walking on Halsted Street at 2.10 am. Police reviewed footage from the Chicago Transit Authority, the Chicago POD cameras, and its internal system to determine travel patterns for the offender.
Based on the observations, police detectives decided to watch the Blue line station during the hours that the offender had previously travelled on the Blue line.
Donald Thurman, who has a criminal history, was arrested on Sunday near the Blue line train station at Halsted and Harrison streets. He was taken into custody and subsequently gave a full confession to this horrific crime.
"All of us are devastated. She had dreams and aspirations to become a health professional and help others. Our thoughts, our hearts, and our condolences are with her family and friends during this trying period," University Chancellor Michael D Amiridis said in a statement.
According to local ABC 7 news, yellow ribbons are hung around campus in her memory. "The ribbon is the colour of her favourite colour," a fellow student was quoted as saying. "They just asked if we could tie them somewhere on campus, in her memory."
Her former gymnastics team coach said in a statement to ABC7 that she was a "sweet girl" with the "brightest smile" who will be dearly missed.
(With agency inputs.)