Mental illness advocates are looking into a tip that suggests Meechaiel Criner was not receiving appropriate treatment while in the care of CPS.
The information came in from one of Criner's teachers in Killeen ISD. That's where the teen was attending high school before being reported as a runaway.
Greg Hansch, public policy director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is looking into whether the murder of UT student Haruka Weiser was a result of a lapse in care in the foster system.
The suspect in the case, 17-year-old Meechaiel Criner, was in the care of CPS when officers say he was captured on video following Weiser with a shiny, rigid object--ultimately killing her.
"In the foster care system we know that there's a high incidence of trauma. That trauma that young people experience in the foster care system can often become something they can put out into the world in their adult lives,” said Hansch.
According to Criner's grandmother, he first received psychiatric care when he was a young child.
She was quoted telling Shreveport news station KSLA if you made him mad, he would snap. A great aunt said his mind is very bad.
Records show Criner was transferred between foster families and family members eventually landing in Killeen where he was reported missing March 24th.
"We found that the children are often in different communities when they're in kinship care going to foster care. They're being shuffled around the state and there's an inconsistency in the treatment plan and the services the child is receiving,” said Hansch.
Further proving his concerns is this brief letter he received from one of Criner's teachers within Killeen ISD. The teacher asked that his identity be kept private.
Mick Criner, the student just arrested for murdering the UT student, was one of my students until a few days ago. He is extremely mentally ill but he was undiagnosed because he was bouncing around the foster child system. He was abused as a child and abused within the Texas foster care system. I don't know what help is available for Mick but he needs help. I had extensive conversations with him on an almost daily basis and he wrote about his past in some assignments in my class. Everyone is going to want to hang Mick but he is mentally ill and he wasn't being treated.
CPS would not discuss whether Criner was receiving treatment, but a spokesperson did point out the mandatory reporting law. Under that law teachers must report if they have cause to believe that a child has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect.
Hansch encouraged the teacher to file a report with CPS. Hansch plans to alert the National Association of Social Workers and Texas CASA.
"We do know there is a severe shortage of mental health professionals across the state particularly child psychiatrists and that could absolutely have been something that played into this situation. We don't know what mental health treatment plan he went through in his lifetime, but it's something that needs to be looked at for building that mental health workforce and making sure that people are getting what they need,” said Hansch.
Criner now has legal representation.
Hansch says prosecutors need to look at whether Criner can be held criminally responsible. He feels a possible verdict of reason by insanity might be on the table.