$10K reward offered for information in Harvey woman's murder, disappearance in Midlothian forest preserve

MIDLOTHIAN, Ill. (WLS) -- The reward for information leading to an arrest in the murder of a 22-year-old Harvey woman has increased to $10,000.

Vanessa Ceja-Ramirez was strangled before her body was found last week in a Midlothian forest preserve.

Her family was in tears as they called for justice late Thursday afternoon. Carolina Abrams shared a message to her cousin's killer.

RELATED: Body found in Midlothian forest preserve ID'd as Harvey woman who went missing on walk

"You are a coward, a lowlife and truly are the scum of the earth for what you have done," Abrams said. "You have no place in society."

Despite the pain over their loss, Ceja-Ramirez's family remains determined to find whomever is responsible for her murder.

"Vanessa Ceja-Ramirez did not deserve any of what happened to her," Abrams said.

Standing in the last place this 22-year-old Harvey woman was seen alive, her family shared what her killer took away from them.

"Vanessa was kind, loving, a precious soul, loved her family and friends," Abrams said.

Friends and supporters held signs that read "Justice for Vanessa" as her family announced an increased reward for any leads in her case.

"Anyone out there no matter how small think it was, a sound, a voice, something-call," urged Midlothian Mayor Gary L'Heureux.

RELATED: Harvey woman who disappeared on walk in Midlothian forest preserve was strangled, autopsy finds

Autopsy results released Thursday revealed Ceja-Ramirez died of asphyxiation due to a ligature strangulation, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. Her death has been ruled a homicide.

"It was brutal and it was vicious," crisis responder Andrew Holmes said.

Ceja-Ramirez was last seen Monday afternoon. She'd been walking with her mother in the Midlothian Meadows forest preserve, but decided to separate and said she'd meet her later at the car. The 22-year-old teaching aide never made it.

Police were called, and helicopters and dogs were dispatched to the 2-square-mile, triangle-shaped wooded area. They picked up Ceja Ramirez's scent at 151st and Pulaski and then her cellphone's last ping, which led investigators to an apartment building 2 miles away in Oak Forest. A police canvass found nothing.

As friends and family gathered Wednesday afternoon to search the woods, suddenly police asked everyone to leave.

Forest preserve police confirmed a woman's body was found in the area. The Cook County medical examiner's office identified the woman's body as Ceja-Ramirez Wednesday evening.

"Basically the information we have obtained, Vanessa was strangled. She was tortured," community activist Andrew Holmes said. "Very shocking. No one should have to go through torture or getting beat and burned."

Ceja-Ramirez was a teacher's aide and was also attending college.

Holmes said earlier this week there was a $2,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.

"To the individual, we ain't gonna stop. We are going to keep looking until we find out who you are, until we identify you, until you are brought to justice," he said.

Community activist Raul Montes Jr. said Sunday that he would add $2,000 to the reward, so it totaled $4,000.

The Cook County Sheriff's Office is handling the investigation.

Anyone with information about Ceja-Ramirez's disappearance or death is asked to contact sheriff's police detectives by calling 708-865-4896 or via email at detective.division@cookcountyil.gov.
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