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Saturday, June 11, 2016
Homeless teenager charged with brutal murder of dance student as she walked to halls of residence
A homeless teenager has been charged with the murder of a first year student who was killed while walking back to her halls of residence.
Meechaiel Criner, 17, was arrested in April in connection with the death of Haruka Weiser, who went missing after leaving the University of Texas' drama building.
She was heading back to her dormitory but never made it. University officers found her body in a creek in the middle of the campus two days later.
Austin Police Assistant Chief Troy Gay said Weiser was "assaulted," but didn't give any other details.
He did not reveal how she was killed, but university President Gregory Fenves said her death showed "unthinkable brutality."
An arrest affidavit for Criner said there was trauma to Weiser's body and that her possessions were not found.
CCTV was released showing a person of interest near where Weiser's body had been found.
A young woman who reported a rubbish fire near the campus on Monday recognised the person in the video as the one who had started the blaze and told police.
According to the affidavit, a separate surveillance video showed a person with a "shiny rigid object" who followed a woman across a bridge and onto a sidewalk before they moved out of frame.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told a news conference that investigators had found items at the fire that were believed to belong to Weiser.
Police tracked Criner to a homeless shelter, where he was arrested.
Criner, who was not a student at the university, had a bag believed to belong to Weiser, Acevedo said.
He said the motive for the killing was not known.
Security has now been increased across the university campus, where 50,000 people study.
Ms Weiser, from Oregon, was a keen dancer.
She planned to visit relatives in Japan this summer, according to her family.
In a statement, they said: "Perhaps the last thing she would want it to be the poster child for any cause.
"And yet, as we struggle to understand why she was killed, if her death can somehow make it safer for a young woman to walk home, if it will prevent another assault or murder, then at least we could find some meaning behind an otherwise senseless and tragic death."
Prof Fenves said: "Haruka was a beloved member of our dance community, liked and admired by her classmates and respected by professors for her intelligence and spirit