Texas police have arrested 17-year-old Meechaiel Khalili Criner in connection to the brutal murder of an 18-year-old dance student named Haruka Weiser. Criner was identified thanks to a CCTV video that showed him leaving the scene of the crime on the day of the murder. Police also revealed that security cameras caught the suspect following Weiser with a “sharp silver object.”
The victim’s body was found Tuesday in a creek on UT’s campus. Her body showed obvious signs of trauma and her death was ruled as homicide. Criner is being charged with first degree murder.
Criner grew up in a broken home, with an alcoholic mother, and faced physical abuse by a foster parent and intense bullying at school for his African accent. In an interview with his school newspaper he said he wanted to overcome his troubling childhood saying, “What I want to leave behind id my name — I want them to know who Meechaiel Criner is.” That certainly is happening, though probably not the way he wanted.
The surveillance footage lead to Criner’s arrest. The footage shows him arriving at around 9:20 pm on the night of the murder. Twenty minutes later, he returns to his bike, but when a woman in all black looking at her phone passes the suspect, Criner watches her pass and then puts the kickstand to his bike down, reaching into his pants and pulling out what appears to be a shiny ridged object.
Hours later, the suspect returns to his bike, now with some kind of leg injury and carrying a bag.
On Thursday, after the footage was released, Austin fire department called Austin PD to say that they had found a young man burning items inside an abandoned building. The young man was identifed at Criner.
After Austin police received this info, they returned to the scene of the fire to find a small shoe, and a notebook with coursework amongst the ash. Criner’s room was then searched, and they found a Macbook with a sticker mentioning Weiser’s hometown of Portland, Oregon. Her family had already confirmed that her Macbook had that very sticker.
University president Greg Fenves spoke at a press conference on Friday saying that Criner’s arrest “brings a tremendous sense of relief to our students, our faculty, our staff and the entire University of Texas community.” He added, “We will take this as an occasion to do as Haruka’s parents asked us to do, learn from this and make this a better community and a safer community for everyone.”
Hundreds of members of the community attended a vigil on Thursday to honor Weiser’s memory. She was a talented dancer and a committed student, friend, daughter, and sister.
Fenves added that the university will take added measures to increase campus saftey in the future. This is the first homicide on UT Austin’s campus since Charles Whitman opened fired from the UT Tower’s obseration deck in 1966, killing 13 people.