Attorneys question police officers, UT employees in second full day of Criner trial

Megan Menchaca

The trial continued Thursday for Meechaiel Criner, the 20-year-old indicted on capital murder in connection with the death of dance freshman Haruka Weiser.

After Weiser’s father and friends testified on Wednesday about their relationships with Weiser, attorneys asked multiple police officers today about the investigation of her death.

Former Austin Police Department homicide detective Ray Tynes was cross-examined about his testimony from Wednesday concerning his role in the investigation into Weiser’s death.

“I think that the ligature (found around Weiser’s neck) rendered her completely under control immediately,” Tynes said. “I don’t believe that (Weiser) had the strength or the physical ability to do anything.”

Amanda Aguilar, APD crime scene specialist, testified about assisting Tynes with his exploration of Waller Creek.

“After (I received a) briefing (about the crime scene), I began documenting the scene through photography (and marking evidence),” Aguilar said. “(I also took some swabs) for any biological testing to be done later.”

Aguilar showed the jury the pieces of evidence she collected from the scene, including black socks, a white bra with reddish-brown stains, a hammer and a discolored nylon strap prosecutors say was used to strangle Weiser.

Attorneys also questioned multiple people about a storage closet that contained a hammer similar to one found at the crime scene and was where prosecutors say Criner was seen four days before Weiser’s death.

José Sandoval, former UT student and Texas Crew team member, testified about finding many items he did not recognize in a storage room in Belmont Hall on March 30, 2016.

“When I saw the door spray-painted, I (took photos because I) wanted to shift blame from Texas Crew (who had the room reserved) to whoever was doing this,” Sandoval said. “I (then took more photos of the items in the room) because it concerned me that they might have been stolen.”

Some of the other items in the storage room included a hammer, ropes and nylon straps, multiple backpacks, a tablet, a janitorial trash can and a shopping cart full of food.

Sandoval then emailed the pictures to Merrick MyCue, assistant athletics director of special events and capital projects for Texas Athletics. MyCue testified that he went to the storage room after receiving the emails that day, saw Criner standing there and told him to leave.

“I opened up the doors (to the storage room) and there was a young gentleman standing 3 feet from me,” MyCue said. “(On April 8), I read an article online (about the arrest of Meechaiel Criner) and was sure that I (had seen the) individual (featured in a photo in the article) earlier (that) week (in the storage room).”

Robert England, a custodial contractor for UT-Austin at the time, testified that he came to the room after MyCue left and saw the same individual packing up his things. England testified that he left the room shortly after seeing this.

After England returned to the room a few hours later, England said the individual and the shopping cart were not in the room anymore. England said he didn’t remember if any of the other items, such as the hammer, were remaining in the room after the individual left.