The murder of the young and promising University of Texas School of Dance student Haruka Weiser is a tragedy that has caught the attention of the whole nation, and the arrest of her alleged killer on Friday morning has been met with a sigh of relief from many.
Weiser’s body was found near a creek on the campus grounds, and as the police attempt to establish a motive for the murder, the hope is that the suspect’s background will help.
The suspect in the murder of the young student has been identified as a 17-year-old homeless youth by the name of Meechaiel Criner, who was captured after surveillance video of him outside the last building the dance student was last seen alive surfaced. On Friday afternoon, when he was presented in court, officials said Criner would face the charge of first-degree murder and his bail was set at $1 million.
While delving into the background of the homeless Meechaiel Criner, NBC News discovered an old interview with the teen in which he said a troubled past with numerous foster homes had made him determined to help people in life and not be a bully. “I like to stand up for people,” the teen said to a student paper in 2014 at Texarkana, Texas. The article’s contents are said to line up with the known details about the suspected killer of the Texas student.
According to the county’s jail records, the suspect, Meechaiel Khalil Criner, was arrested and booked into the Travis County Jail around 2 a.m. Friday. Police took Criner into custody from the LifeWorks youth shelter in East Austin. He was originally in the system in Texarcana, Texas, and how he got to Austin is still unknown. His location was reported when the firefighters who had taken him there earlier recognized the figure in the circulated surveillance video.
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
The firefighters had responded to a suspicious trash fire Monday and took Criner, discovered at the scene, to the shelter. The blaze is how the young man was allegedly attempting to destroy evidence of the murder, but he was not successful as police later did manage to retrieve enough to be used against him. The suspected killer was also found to be in possession of a duffel bag, which People reported as containing a laptop, phone and jacket belonging to Haruka Weiser. Police also took a bicycle believed to belong to Criner, on that was identical to the one the man in the video had.
The Chron revealed that police have advised that it may have been a knife which was used to murder the freshman. The surveillance video had shown a figure taking a shiny object from his pants pocket and following after the deceased into the woods where her body was later found. Little details about how Haruka Weiser died have been released, but the coroner has highlighted that the student was viciously killed.
Criner had recalled to the Texas High School publication that he had been bullied for most of his life and came home from elementary school in tears almost everyday. He and his four siblings had eventually been taken in by their grandmother, but only after Criner spent months in an abusive foster home. The foster parent had locked him in the bathroom, and even threw him to the ground so hard that he damaged his back. He was eventually back in the system.
“It was a really harsh time in my life. People can be mean and hateful. They say CPS [Child Protective Services] is supposed to be a good place, but it’s not… It turned out that foster care is almost — well, almost a prison.”
The interview had one line about where Criner saw himself in the future that was ominously prophetic.
“Every day, I feel people think I’m not capable of much. What I want to leave behind is my name — I want them to know who Meechaiel Criner is.”
It is doubtful that the younger Meechaiel Criner and his expressed desire to help others would have anticipated or wanted his name to be remembered for the murder of an 18-year-old student who had her entire future ahead of her.
The investigation into the UT student’s death is ongoing and hopefully as time goes on an actual motive can be established and justice delivered for the murder of Haruka Weiser.
[Image via Austin Police Department via AP Images]