Texas student Haruka Weiser’s life was just beginning. She was 18-years-old, a freshman at the University of Texas, who planned to study pre-med and an amazing dancer.
But earlier this week, someone killed the young student and left her body by a creek that winds through the Texas campus. Her murder has been called “horrifying and incomprehensible.”
On Friday, a 17-year-old was arrested for her death, The American Statesmanand NBC News reported. In a press conference elaborating on the arrest, police Chief Art Acevedo identified the man who allegedly killed her as a homeless teen named Meechaiel Criner, 17.
Acevedo said that the student’s death is a reminder to all youth that they should be vigilant no matter what.
“There are monsters in society that would do us harm.”
Criner is believed to be the same person of interest seen in grainy security footage, released by the police on Thursday as they sought the public’s help in tracking down the person who killed Haruka. The video revealed a 6-foot-tall man walking around the area the night Weiser vanished, pushing a red or pink woman’s bike.
APD names suspect in Haruka Weiser Murder case as Meechaiel Criner, a homeless 17 year old man. pic.twitter.com/en5mzHA8ht— FOX 7 Austin (@fox7austin) April 8, 2016
Police don’t yet know why he allegedly killed her, but he’ll be charged Friday with first-degree murder; more charges may be pending.
The press conference was streamed live by Fox7Austin.
The Texas student, who was studying theater and dance, was last seen on Sunday night at 9:30 p.m. as she left the Winship Drama Building on campus. She texted her roommates to say she was on her way back to the dorm.
She would’ve taken the Waller Creek trail, which winds through campus, to get back home, according to The Washington Post. But Weiser never arrived. By the morning, her roommates were worried enough to call campus police to report her missing.
“She never made it to her dormitory that night,” Assistant Austin Police Chief Troy Gay said, according to Newsday.
During an investigation into the missing persons report, police found Haruka on Tuesday morning, dead, alongside the same creek the Texas student likely followed on her way back to the dorm. The area is described as busy both day and night, and is located near the alumni center and a football stadium. It’s not clear when she was killed.
Police have only said that the medical examiner’s office has ruled her death a homicide, but not how she was killed. They’ve confirmed the young student was assaulted. No weapon was found at the scene.
Here's a look at how many Texas students are here on East Mall for Haruka Weiser memorial. pic.twitter.com/fGeXj4DFCv— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) April 7, 2016
UT President Gregory Fenves called the attack “horrifying.”
“As a parent, this is my worst nightmare. The unimaginable brutality against Haruka is an attack on our entire family.”
The case broke due to the vigilance of Austin residents. On Thursday, two calls came in to investigators: Austin firefighters reported a suspicious trash fire they responded to on Monday and a unnamed resident reported the same blaze. Both callers linked the fire to the security footage.
Firefighters had picked up Criner at the scene and took him to a shelter. They later realized their homeless teen resembled the person in the security footage. He was allegedly found with a blue duffle bag that belonged to the deceased Texas student; the bike may also have been hers.
Criner isn’t believed to be connected to the student, is not attend the University of Texas himself, and his criminal history is being investigated. The campus is in the middle of the Texas capital, which has a significant homeless population. According to investigators, the suspect hasn’t been in Austin very long.
An hour-and-a-half before Friday’s press conference, Acevedo spoke with Haruka’s parents. After extending her thanks to the officers, community, and people at UT, she asked the chief to tell the public one thing.
“Please tell them to take care of themselves and go home and hug your children, not once but twice.”
Weiser is the first person to be killed on campus since 1966, when engineering student Charles Whitman shot students from the top of the university’s bell tower.
[Photo By Eric Gay/AP]