Meechaiel Criner charged with the murder of Haruka Weiser
An arrest has been made in the murder of UT student Haruka Weiser. Police have identified the suspect as 17-year-old Meechaiel Criner.
Police say Criner is homeless. He has been booked at the Travis County Jail and charged with murder.
A crucial tip that helped find Criner came in after the Austin firefighters had responded to a small fire Monday involving a backpack. Police say the suspect was burning items belonging to Weiser. Police say woman called in the fire and the tip after images were released of the suspect.
UT President Gregory Fenves released the following statement.
The identity of this week's homicide on the University of Texas campus was confirmed as Weiser at a press conference on April 7. A surveillance video was released of a possible suspect at that time.
At the press conference, police said that Haruka was last seen leaving a drama building on Sunday, April 3 between 9:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. Haruka's roommates reported her missing on Monday, April 4 after Haruka never returned to her dorm room.
Police say the suspect was last seen with a red or pink woman's bicycle on campus. They're asking the public to call with any information they may have. There is up to a $15,000 reward for information leading to the suspect's identification. Police are urging students and faculty to remain vigilant.
Haruka's family issued a statement saying they were grateful for the support they've received and said that their beloved daughter, sister and friend was taken too soon.
University of Texas President Greg Fenves, and Austin Police held a press briefing on Haruka's death.
Fenves also released a statement about Haruka's death which he called "a tragic loss for the UT community."
He said Haruka was a "beloved member of the dance community, liked and admired by her classmates and respected by professor for her intelligence and spirit."
The full statement is as follows:
With great sadness, I have just learned from the Austin Police Department that Haruka Weiser, a first-year Theatre and Dance student, has been tentatively identified as the victim of this week's homicide on campus. Austin Police Department Victim Services counselors spoke this morning with her parents and my heart goes out to them. Her death is a tragic loss for the UT community.
Haruka was a beloved member of our dance community, liked and admired by her classmates and respected by professors for her intelligence and spirit. Dance faculty members first met Haruka more than two years ago when she performed at the National High School Dance Festival. They immediately began recruiting her to come to UT from her home in Portland, Oregon. Our community was made better by her decision to join the College of Fine Arts.
Trained in ballet, Haruka excelled in all her performance endeavors. She was also involved in Dance Action, a student-run organization for dancers, and performed in the fall Dance Action concert.
UTPD first learned that Haruka was missing on Monday morning and immediately began a search. As I reported in my message to campus yesterday, Austin police are leading the homicide investigation into this horrifying and incomprehensible crime and working with UTPD and other law enforcement agencies to locate and apprehend a suspect quickly.
The unthinkable brutality against Haruka is an attack on our entire family. Law enforcement is fully engaged to do everything to bring the perpetrator who committed this crime to justice.
I ask you to join me in expressing our deepest condolences to Haruka's parents, family, classmates and friends and to help the university honor her life.
Gregory L. Fenves
The suspect in this case is not known at this time. UT students and faculty should exhibit a high degree of awareness and vigilance until this suspect is arrested. Various agencies continue to assist UTPD with extra patrols.
The Capital Area Crime Stoppers, the Governor's Crime Stoppers Program and the US Marshals office have offered a combined reward of $15,000.
Detectives are asking anyone with information, or who recognize the bicycle or any of the persons in the video, to contact APD Homicide at 512-974-5372.
Ways to report a tip anonymously include:
TIPS Hotline - 512-472-TIPS (8477) OR 1-800-893-TIPS (8477)
Text "tip103 + your message" to CRIMES (274637)
You can also download APD's mobile app, Austin PD, for free on iPhone and Android.