Suspect in Custody for Haruka Weiser Murder

 
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Haruka Weiser (Facebook)

Update, Friday, April 8, 10:30 a.m.: At a press conference on Friday morning, Austin police announced they arrested 17-year-old Meechaiel Criner in connection with the homicide of Haruka Weiser.

“I can tell you that with a high degree of certainty and confidence, we have the suspect responsible for her murder,” said APD chief Art Acevedo.

According to Acevedo, members of the Austin Fire Department responded on Monday to a trash fire in the 2900 block of Medical Arts Street. On Thursday, after watching the video of the suspect, both the firefighters and the community member who called in the fire recognized Criner.

APD then arrested Criner at LifeWorks, a youth resource center, where police had taken him on Monday. Acevedo described Criner as a homeless teen who is not believed to have been in Austin long. In 2014, the student newspaper of Texas High School in Texarkana interviewed Criner:

 

Acevedo said that Criner was in possession of a backpack and other personal items believed to be Weiser’s. He also called the Weiser family “heroic, courageous, and strong,” adding that he spoke with Weiser’s mother earlier Friday morning.

“As we were closing the conversation, she asked, ‘Chief, will you do something for me?'” Acevedo said. “‘Please tell all your officers, everyone at the University of Texas, everyone involved in this—thank you. But also please tell them to take care of themselves and hug their children.'”

 

Thursday, April 7: On Thursday, university officials identified Haruka Weiser, an 18-year-old freshman dance major from Portland, Oregon, as the victim of what appears to be the first homicide on the UT-Austin campus in 50 years. They also released a video of someone they’re calling a suspect in the case.

Weiser never made it back to her dormitory after leaving a dance practice at the Winship Drama Building on Sunday night. UT police officers found her body in Waller Creek behind the Alumni Center on Tuesday morning.

“The unthinkable brutality against Haruka is an attack on our entire family,” UT president Greg Fenves said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon. “Law enforcement is doing everything they can to bring the perpetrator of this heinous crime to justice.”

Fenves said that the university is increasing security measures, including providing shuttles for theater and dance students after nighttime rehearsals, ramping up police patrols, expanding the SURE Walk program, and enlisting the Texas Department of Public Safety to conduct a campus safety and security review. “To our students: You expect and deserve to be safe on our campus,” Fenves said.

Troy Gay, assistant chief with the Austin Police Department, declined to name a cause of death or whether Weiser was sexually assaulted, citing the ongoing investigation. Gay said that police do not believe there is any connection between Weiser’s death and the recent string of sexual assaults in North Austin. “At this time, we do not know the identity of the suspect, and we will definitely need the support of our community,” Gay said.

Police released a video showing a suspect on campus after the assault, seen in full below:

Police said Weiser was seen leaving rehearsal around 9:30 p.m. Sunday, and the suspect was seen walking on the north side of Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium around 11:30 p.m. Police describe the suspect as a 6-foot-tall black man with an athletic build, with a pink or red women’s bicycle. Anyone who was near the stadium or Art Building from 9:30 p.m. to midnight on Sunday, April 3 is asked to call the APD Homicide Unit at (512) 974-5372 or the APD tip line at (512) 472-8477. You can also submit a tip online.

Vice President for Student Affairs Gage Paine encouraged students to visit the Counseling and Mental Health Center, which is now taking walk-ins. A community gathering in Weiser’s memory is planned for 5:30 p.m. Thursday on the East Mall. “Today we remember that Longhorns care for each other and for themselves,” Paine said.

Fenves read a statement on behalf of Weiser’s family, which we’ve included in full below:

Weiser Family Statement

 

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