Trial date set for suspect in murder of UT freshman

Catherine Marfin

A Travis County judge set a trial date Thursday for 18-year-old Meechaiel Khalil Criner, who was charged with the murder of dance freshman Haruka Weiser last April.

Criner’s trial date is scheduled for March 27 but is likely to be delayed as attorneys are still awaiting DNA results, according to the Austin American-Statesman. 

Ariel Payan, Criner’s court-apppointed attorney, told the Statesman that the court date will “almost certainly” be pushed back.

Criner was indicted on a charge of capital murder by a Travis County grand jury in June.  The 2-page indictment accused Criner of sexually assaulting Weiser and killing her by strangulation with “a ligature, a deadly weapon.”  The indictment also accused Criner of 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.

Criner, who was homeless at the time of the offense, was found by Austin firefighters burning items, which included a notebook filled with college-level coursework, in a trashcan fire on Medical Arts Street on April 4, according to his arrest affidavit. Austin Police Department 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.

If convicted, Criner is not eligible for the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the arrest,  and would be sentenced to life in prison with the chance of parole after 40 years.