By Steven Graves

CHICAGO (CBS) — A Maryland University doctoral candidate was was stabbed in the back and killed in broad daylight Saturday afternoon on South Wacker Drive near Van Buren Street downtown.

The university on Monday said the victim was Anat Kimchi, a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

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Anat Kimchi (Credit: University Of Maryland)

“The University of Maryland grieves the loss of Anat Kimchi, a brilliant young scholar,’ the University said in a statement. We offer our condolences to her friends and family during this difficult time.”

As CBS 2’s Steven Graves reported, the assailant remained at large Saturday night. And while the crime happened in the shadow of the Willis Tower – which is located just a block to the north – the area where it happened is also a place that not too many people frequent.

That fact has detectives trying to piece things together.

At 4 p.m., the 31-year-old woman was on the sidewalk, next to a power station that overlooks the Eisenhower Expressway – which starts right around that point.

A man came up, took out a knife, and stabbed the woman from the back. A dispatcher reported over police radio that the woman was found bleeding from her neck.

The woman was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The man who did it ran away.

At the scene late Saturday, police Supt. David Brown said the attack took place in an area that is not well-traveled and is adjacent to ramps near the mouth of the Eisenhower Expressway. The stabbing itself happened on a sidewalk headed down a ramp.

Brown said a homeless encampment is located close to the crime scene, and he said, “We suspect this likely is a homeless person that secreted himself in the bushes and came out and committed this heinous crime.”

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Brown said the victim likely did not see the attacker until he came out of the bushes where he was hiding.

Detectives followed the path they think the suspect took, possibly running through an expressway tunnel.

Some of the crime might have been caught on POD video, and there are cooperating witnesses, Brown said. He said police are following the trail of the assailant on POD video – and he was seen walking down a ramp and disappearing down an underpass.

Brown said given that the scene is in a remote corner of the downtown area, he personally doubts the public in the Loop Saturday night has to worry about any danger. Still, he advised people to be on guard, travel in groups, be aware of their surroundings, protect themselves, and flee and call police if approached.

Information about the victim is not yet known, and the focus is now notifying her family, Brown said. He would not say if the woman was also part of the homeless encampment.

It is also not clear where she was coming from or going to at the time, or why she was on the remote path.

Several high-profile acts of violent crime have been reported downtown in recent weeks. But Brown said the claim that violent crime is up downtown is a myth.

He said in the Central (1st) and Near North (18th) district, which together stretch from Lincoln Park to the Near South Side and include the entire downtown area, have seen a reduction in both homicides and overall crime.

Still, Brown said, “One crime is too many.”

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Area Three detectives were investigating the homicide Saturday evening.