Police: Homeless teenager arrested in killing of Texas dance student

Male Suspect Arrested in University of Texas Student's Death
Male Suspect Arrested in University of Texas Student's Death

AUSTIN, Texas, April 8 (Reuters) - A 17-year-old homeless boy has been arrested in connection with the killing of a first-year dance student at the University of Texas at Austin, whose body was found on campus earlier this week, police said on Friday.

The death of Haruka Weiser, 18, of Oregon, who was also studying theater, marked the first on-campus killing at the university since 1966 and sent shockwaves through the school and the surrounding community.

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Meechaiel Criner, 17, was arrested on Thursday in connection with Weiser's slaying, and was set to be formally charged later on Friday with first-degree murder, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a news conference.

Criner was found with a number of items, including a backpack, that were believed to belong to the victim, Acevedo said.

"We are very certain that the suspect in custody is the suspect responsible for the death of this beautiful young woman," Acevedo said.

The motive for the killing was not known, he said.

A police surveillance video released Thursday of a "person of interest" with a bicycle, near where the body was found, was crucial in the arrest of Criner, police said.

They said the teenager appeared to be homeless and was not a student at the University of Texas.

A woman who had reported a small trash fire in Austin on Monday recognized the young man in the video as the person who had started the blaze and told police about it, Acevedo said.

Firefighters also told investigators the person in the video resembled the man at the scene of the fire, he said.

Criner did not resist arrest when he was taken into custody on Thursday, the police chief said.

Weiser was reported missing on Monday. Her body was found on Tuesday behind the university's alumni center near the main football stadium on the Austin campus, which is used by about 64,000 students, faculty and staff. Police have not released a cause of death.

Weiser left the drama building on Sunday night, likely headed for her dormitory, but never made it there, police said.

The university community held a vigil for Weiser on Thursday that was attended by hundreds of students, and her death prompted a campus security review.

Gregory Fenves, president of the University of Texas at Austin, said Friday that increased police patrols would continue on campus.

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