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Texas Police Arrest Homeless Teen In Murder Of UT Student Haruka Weiser

By Jelani James | Apr 08, 2016 01:54 PM EDT

Texas police announced Friday that they have arrested a homeless 17-year-old in connection to the murder of University of Texas student Haruka Weiser, which occurred earlier this week.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo revealed during a press conference that the suspect, Meechaiel Criner, was arrested by police Thursday evening and booked into the country jail on a first-degree murder charge.

"I don't have a clue what the motive is," he said, noting that Criner is a homeless teen with no known connection to Weiser.

Weiser was last seen Sunday evening as she left from the university's drama building en route to her dorm. However, she never turned up, prompting her roommates to report her missing the next morning, which, in turn, launched a police investigation. Unfortunately, things took a tragic turn on Tuesday when her body was discovered in Waller Creek by the university's alumni center.

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Thursday's arrest came through coincidence. While responding to a small fire involving a backpack near the campus on Monday, firefighters came across Criner at the scene and took him to Lifeworks, a nonprofit shelter in the city. 

Afterwards, someone who witnessed the fire called in a tip after seeing a surveillance video that featured a 6-foot-tall black male steering a red or pink women's bike, believing that the suspect in the video resembled the person who was involved in Monday's incident.

Through the help of the local fire department, police located Criner at LifeWorks, and he was in possession of a blue duffel bag belonging to Weiser and the bike that resembled the one in the video.

To date, police have declined to release anymore details about the incident, saying, "We would be remiss if we started talking about specifics." However they have underlined the brutality of the incident, noting that an autopsy shows she was assaulted.

The incident shook the surrounding community and university itself, which is known as being quite safe, with the last homicide on campus taking place in 1966. Even with this death on everyone's minds, officials emphasized that the campus is safe but have urged students and others to be vigilant.

In a statment about the incident to the campus community, UT President Gregory Fenves referred to Weiser's death as 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," he added. "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."

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