$4K 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 doubled, activists said Sunday.

Vanessa Ceja-Ramirez was strangled before her body was found Wednesday at a Midlothian forest preserve in the south suburb.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.