Details Released on Homeless Teen Suspected in Murder of University of Texas Ballet Student Haruka Weiser
In a 2014 article published by high school paper, Meechaiel Criner said he wanted people "to know" his name
An affidavit obtained by PEOPLE detailing the allegations against Meechaiel Criner claims surveillance footage shows the 17-year-old suspect pulling a “shiny, rigid object” from his back pocket as he allegedly follows University of Texas ballet student Haruka Weiser across a bridge on the Austin campus Sunday night.
Weiser, an 18-year-old from Portland, Oregon, was found in a creek on Tuesday. Criner, who is homeless, has been charged with first degree murder, according to the affidavit. Bail has been set at $1 million.
Police say that in her final moments, Weiser used her iPhone to call her roommate Sunday, telling her that she was “on the way” back to their dorm room at around 9:30 p.m. The following morning when she didn’t show up for classes, Weiser was reported missing to the Austin Police Department.
Weiser’s roommates told police she had left their room carrying a blue duffel bag and wearing long-sleeved mock turtleneck, black stretch pants, and brown Doc Marten boots, according to the affidavit.
The bag, the affidavit notes, contained her laptop computer, her phone, an extra jacket and school supplies.
On Tuesday, Weiser’s body was found and she was officially pronounced dead. An autopsy later confirmed the suspicions of investigators, who maintained the student’s death was a homicide.
The affidavit claims detectives pored over hours of surveillance footage and found video that showed Criner near the crime scene.
In the video, Criner is allegedly seen following the female across the bridge and out of the frame. “The suspect is not seen again until 11:47 p.m.,” according to the affidavit, when he appears to be walking back with the same bike, but limping. The footage also shows him carrying a bag matching Weiser’s.
On Monday, police responded to a report of a trash fire in an abandoned building and determined Criner had started it.
The affidavit says police recovered a pink bicycle from the abandoned building, as well as a blue duffel bag. After the fire was extinguished, detectives allegedly found a burned notebook, a black jacket, and a Doc Marten boot in the ashes.
According to the affidavit, “biological matter” was collected from the scene where Weiser’s body was found.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokeswoman Julie Moody tells PEOPLE that Criner “is in the care of Child Protective Services,” and, citing the state’s confidentiality laws, refused to discuss the circumstances of his case, including how long he’d been a ward of the government.
“This is a serious criminal matter,” Moody explains. “Therefore, I would direct most of your questions to law enforcement.”
Police: Suspect’s Motivation Unknown
Police claim they still don’t know what motivated Criner’s alleged actions.
At a candlelight vigil honoring Weiser Thursday evening, the iconic Tower on campus was darkened in her honor, according to a tweet sent out by the school.
At a Thursday press conference, Austin Police Chief Troy Gay said that on Sunday night, Haruka was seen leaving the drama building. In a statement, Haruka’s parents said she was a dance major preparing to double major in pre-med.
“Haruka, our beloved daughter, sister and friend was taken from us too soon,” the family’s statement said.
“The pain from our sudden and tragic loss is unfathomable,” the statement said.
At Thursday’s press conference, Bob Harkins, Vice President of Campus Safety and Security, said there has been increased security on campus in the wake of the attack. The Austin Police Department has offered 20 officers in addition to campus officers.
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According to a tweet by a University of Texas student, if campus escorts are not available through the SURE Walk program, the College of Fine Arts will reimburse any Fine Arts students Uber or Lyft rides from campus to their car or residence between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
In a profile piece published in late 2014 by Tiger Times, the official newspaper of Texas High School in Texarkana, Criner, who, according to the article was a sophomore in 2014, claimed to be a lifelong target of bullies who said he was placed in foster care when he was in elementary school.
During the interview, Criner claimed to be the victim of physical abuse. The 2014 article claims Criner was unclear about what his future would hold, but said he wanted people to remember his name.
“What I want to leave behind is my name,” Criner is quoted as saying. “I want them to know who Meechaiel Criner is.”