A homeless teen has been arrested for the murder of a University of Texas student whose body was discovered in a creek on campus.
Meechaiel Khalil Criner, 17, is now in custody in Travis County jail and has been charged with first-degree murder, according to Austin, Texas police. After authorities released surveillance footage of Criner at the University of Texas, firefighters and a concerned citizen assisted authorities in catching the suspect who is believed to have killed one of the school’s students, 18-year-old Haruka Weiser.
Criner had reportedly run away from his grandmother’s Texarkana home in August. He is believed to have been displaced even since then. In Dec. 2014, he was featured in a school newspaper article discussing his rough childhood in which he was often bullied for his “African-like” accent and was forced into foster care due to his mother being an alcoholic who did not want to be responsible for children.
The Austin Fire Department spotted Criner at the scene of a fire Monday, according to NY Daily News. He was then transported to a shelter, but later, firefighters recognized Criner in the police’s surveillance video. It was soon discovered that the fire was due to Criner burning Weiser’s belongings.
When police found Criner at the shelter, he was reportedly in possession of a duffel bag that resembled Weisner’s.
“We are very certain that the subject we have in custody … is responsible for the death of this beautiful young woman,” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said to reporters.
Weiser, a dance and theater student, had left the school’s drama building at around 10 p.m. on Sunday and was headed home, but she never made it. Her roommates reported her missing, and her dead body was found in a creek on campus by Tuesday.
“We are relieved to hear,” of the arrest, Weiser’s family said. “We remain steadfast in our desire to honor Haruka’s memory through kindness and love, not violence.”
Police have not gone into detail of how Weiser was murdered, but they have said it is currently unclear as to why Criner — who was not known to be a student — killed the young woman.
Campus Police Chief David Carter said that the school is now in a state of grief.
“The campus continues to grieve. Yes, we feel better that the suspect is in custody, but we continue to grieve,” he said.