A Travis County grand jury has indicted 17-year-old Meechaiel Khalil Criner on capital murder charges for the death of UT-Austin dance freshman Haruka Weiser in April.
The two-page indictment accuses Criner of sexually assaulting Weiser and killing her by strangulation with “a ligature." The Austin Police Department originally charged Criner with murder, but the capital murder charge includes other offenses Criner committed during the crime, including kidnapping and robbing Weiser.
Weiser was reported missing on Monday, April 4 after failing to return home from a dance rehearsal the previous evening. On April 5, her body was found in Waller Creek, behind the on-campus alumni center near San Jacinto and East 23rd streets.
According to his arrest affidavit, Criner was found by Austin firefighters burning items in a trashcan fire on April 4, including a notebook filled with college-level coursework, on Medical Arts Street, just blocks from where Weiser’s body was found. APD originally took him to the Austin homeless shelter LifeWorks, but after releasing video footage of the suspect on April 7, APD received anonymous tips that led them to identify Criner as the suspect.
While Criner is not eligible for the death penalty because of his age, he may face life in prison if convicted. Criner had only been in Austin a few weeks before Weiser’s death, and was listed as a runaway by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Criner had been in foster care from a young age and was under conservatorship of Child Protective Services at the time of his arrest, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Criner remains in Travis County Jail and has a hearing scheduled for July 8.
This copy of the Travis County grand jury indictment of Meechaiel Khalil Criner was obtained via the Austin American-Statesman.