(YUMA, Ariz.) — A U.S. Marine has been identified as the man taken into custody today in Arizona in connection with the slaying of a 20-year-old University of North Texas student who was shot in the head while designated-driving early New Year’s Day.
The Marine Corps identified him as Cpl. Eric Johnson of Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1. Johnson was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona.
Johnson “was taken into custody at approximately 6:30 a.m. at the North Gate of the installation in fulfillment of a warrant issued in connection to an alleged shooting in Denton, Texas,” the Marine Corps said. “MCAS Yuma Provost Marshall’s Office and Naval Criminal Investigative Service assisted the US Marshal Service and the Yuma Police Department in the detainment of Johnson and remain in support of the US Marshal’s ongoing investigation.”
The Denton, Texas, Police Department said today that Johnson was found in Yuma, Arizona, and was served with an arrest warrant this morning.
The investigation is ongoing, Denton police said Tuesday. Denton police say they plan to hold a news conference in the afternoon to provide additional details.
The victim, Sara Mutschlechner, was the designated driver for her friends in Texas in the early morning of New Year’s Day when men in a black SUV pulled up next to their car and exchanged words with them, Denton police officer Shane Kizer told ABC News this weekend. The exchange was “peaceful at first,” but the suspects then “made some comments towards the girls, and it escalated from there,” Kizer said.
Two or three rounds were fired at the young woman’s car, and Mutschlechner lost control and crashed into an electrical pole in Denton, Kizer said.
Police were called to the scene just after 2 a.m. and responding officers found Mutschlechner lying on the ground with a gunshot wound to her head. She was taken to the hospital where she was on life support. She died the evening of Jan. 1, Kizer said.
Mutschlechner, of Martindale, Texas, was a junior at UNT. She described herself on her LinkedIn page as an “avid movie-goer” and majored in radio, television and film with a minor concentration in theater, according to a university spokeswoman.
She was also a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, according to its Facebook page.
“There are so many people that knew her, that she touched their lives,” said her father, Clay Mutschlechner. “She never met a stranger.”
“She was friends with everyone,” added her mother, Gloria Mutschlechner.
“She was just one of those people that always had a smile on her face, never said no to an adventure,” said Chris Challiot, a friend.
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