(AUSTIN, Texas) — A 17-year-old is in custody in connection with the slaying of Haruka Weiser, a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, Austin police said on Friday.
The suspect, identified as Meechaiel Criner, is being held at a local jail on a murder charge, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said Friday morning. Acevedo said the charge will be filed formally later in the day.
Criner is believed to be homeless and is not a student at the university, police said. Police said the motive is not clear.
Weiser, 18, a first-year theater and dance major, was last seen leaving a university drama building Sunday night. Her body was discovered in a campus creek Tuesday.
University President Gregory L. Fenves described the deadly attack as “unthinkable brutality.”
Authorities on Thursday released surveillance video of a man considered to be a person of interest in the case and pleaded with the public to help identify him.
Acevedo said Friday that it was tips from a woman and members of the local fire department who saw the video that led to the teen’s arrest.
On Monday, Criner was seen lighting a fire in a trash can, and firefighters responded, Acevedo said Friday. Once firefighters saw the surveillance video released by police, they recognized the person of interest, Acevedo said.
Acevedo said the police also received a “key” tip from a woman — whom they did not identify — who saw Criner on Monday and reported the fire. Then, when she saw the surveillance video released by police Thursday showing the person of interest, she “connected the dots” and went to police, saying, “that resembles the young man who started a fire Monday,” Acevedo said.
The case remains active and police said they anticipate further charges against the teen as the investigation continues. The University president said earlier that “Haruka was a beloved member of our dance community, liked and admired by her classmates and respected by professors for her intelligence and spirit.”
“Her death is a tragic loss for the UT community,” Fenves said.
Acevedo told ABC News that Weiser’s death marks the first homicide at the school since the UT Tower massacre in the summer of 1966, in which a man opened fire from the top of the campus tower, killing 16 and wounding many others.
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