Crime

Haruka Weiser murder trial begins in Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Opening statements began Wednesday in the trial of a man accused of murdering a University of Texas at Austin student two years ago.

Meechaiel Criner, 19, has pleaded not guilty to the capital murder charge. He is accused of killing Haruka Weiser by strangulation as she walked back to her dorm April 3, 2016. Police found the 18-year-old's body two days later in Waller Creek.

Because of the high-profile nature of this case, the 12 jurors and two alternates have been told multiple times not to discuss the case with anyone or to follow news coverage about it.

Prosecutor Guillermo Gonzalez told the jury in his opening statements about surveillance videos, evidence on campus, evidence at the Medical Arts building and details about Criner himself which led the state to believe that Criner is guilty. 

Defense attorney Darla Davis told the jury that Haruka was murdered in a horrific manner, but they intend to prove that Criner was not there when the murder was committed and that Criner is not guilty. 

Haruka's Dad Takes the Stand

The first witness to be called forward was Thomas Weiser, Haruka Weiser's father. Thomas described his daughter as a talented dancer, a great student, and a responsible young woman. He said she attended UT on a dance scholarship even though it was far from her family in Portland, Oregon.

Thomas recalled visiting Haruka when she started at UT and observed the path she traveled walking from the dance building to her apartment. He recalled telling his daughter he thought that path would be unsafe at night.

Thomas said he heard his daughter might be missing from a neighbor, then later saw a Facebook message he'd missed on April 4 from Haruka's roommate alerting him. He was confused about why UT didn't have his or his wife's contact information and became very worried when he realized Haruka had been missing for two days.

"My heart kind fo sank because that was unusual for her," Thomas Weiser said. 

He expressed frustration about calling the UT Police Department for details in the initial days that Haruka went missing and said that he did not initially receive a response. 

The state also called Andie Duong, Haruka's friend, Ginnifer Joe, a dance major in production classes with Haruka, and Sylvia Feghali, Haruka's roommate. 

KXAN is a sister station with KOIN 6 News.


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