Jury learns more in UT Austin murder trial

Police dash cam video from April 4 2016 shows when authorities responded to a fire in a vacant office building near UT. It’s when Meechaeil Criner was found squatting inside.

Friday, Criner watched the video along with the jury. APD Officers Marco Gonzalez and Nick Garcia testified Criner said he was homeless.

In the video Criner gathers his property as the fire crew tries to locate a Shelter.

“Somebody was trying to find him a place  ... they were trying to do a good deed,”said Officer Garcia

Before transporting Criner the officers checked his bags for weapons. It included going through a blue duffel bag that prosecutors say belonged to Haruka Weiser who was murdered the day before.

On the video Officer Marco Gonzalez can be seen looking into a bag and spotting a silver apple laptop. He testified Friday why that surprised him then. “I find it as odd, that somebody who is homeless can afford something like that, it’s odd,” said Officer Gonzalez.

At the time Criner was not charged with trespassing, and the jury watched video of him being given a courtesy transport to a youth shelter. All that interaction at the fire scene eventually results in Criner being named as the accused murderer.

The jury heard testimony how the good samaritans became informants.

It happened after police released images of a potential suspect. Campus security camera recorded a man in a dark outfit on a bike near the murder scene.

Fireman Aaron Wernsman testified about seeing the alert on TV.  “When they showed the individual on a bike I had a very strong reaction. I knew, immediately, who that person was in the video, and it was the person we had encountered,” said  Wernsman.

Fireman John Robert Bass said the familiar frame of the bicycle is what caught his eye. Wernsman agreed. “The way he moved and the shape of that bicycle were immediately recognizable to me,I immediately believed that was the same bicycle and the same individual”

Based on their call to police, Criner was arrested at the youth shelter and charged with the murder. Investigators then returned to the vacant office building and recovered what Criner allegedly left behind.

The items included a burned boot and clothing prosecutors believed belong to Haruka Weiser, a meal plan recipe with her name on it, as well as a shirt from a school Criner attended that prosecutors say had a hair on it that’s linked  to Weiser.

There is also a jacket that was found. The jury was told it looks similar to the one worn by the man seen in the UT campus security video the night Weiser was killed.

Defense attorneys tried to get all that ruled as in admissible but the motion was denied.

Testimony will continue Monday morning. 

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