Meechaiel Criner indicted for capital murder in UT student's death

A Capital Murder charge that is what a Travis County Grand Jury has decided a 17-year-old runaway from Texas' foster care system will face.

In a two-page indictment Meechaiel Criner is accused of sexually assaulting 18-year-old Haruka Weiser, and killing her by strangling her with a "ligature." Criner had originally been facing a murder charge, but because of the other offenses, kidnapping and robbery, the Grand Jury went for Capital Murder. Criner is not eligible for the death penalty, because he's under the age of 18. But if convicted the DA’s office said he could face life in prison. Under Texas law because of his age, he will have the possibility of parole, but must serve a minimum of 40 years in prison.

The death of University of Texas Freshman Theater and Dance major, Haruka Weiser shocked the campus. Police said Criner attacked Weiser when she was walking back to her dorm on the night of Sunday, April 3rd. A couple days later her body was found in a creek on campus. Surveillance video linked Criner to the crime. “We are very certain that the suspect in custody is the suspect responsible for the death of this beautiful young woman," said Chief of Police Art Acevedo after Criner was arrested.

Criner, who's bounced around in the foster care system, was in the care of Child Protective Services and was listed as a runaway. Criner's attorney Ariel Payan has said in the past he has severe mental issues and that’s expected to play a key role in the case.  He spoke about Criner's mental state after he was arrested. "He was confused, very polite. Didn't really understand what was going on. But he was able to answer questions," Payan said. Criner is undergoing psychological evaluations to determine whether he is competent to stand trial.

Friday morning, UT President Gregory L. Fenves, released this statement regarding the capital murder charge. “As our campus continues to mourn the loss of Haruka Weiser, I deeply appreciate the tireless work of law enforcement and the District Attorney's office to investigate and prosecute this crime. University Police continue to coordinate closely with Austin Police and the Travis County District Attorney on this case."

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