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Foster mother of man accused in murder of UT student testifies in week 2 of trial

If convicted, Meechaiel Criner could face life in prison

AUSTIN — The trial for the man accused of killing a University of Texas student picked back up Monday morning -- and it's still expected conclude by the end of the week.

Meechaiel Criner, 20, is accused of sexually assaulting and strangling Haruka Weiser to death on campus in April of 2016. Her body was found by authorities in Waller Creek.

Criner has pleaded not guilty to the capital murder charge.

On Monday, July 16, Tyrik Patterson testified. He was the last person to see Weiser on April 5, 2016.

He was also a dance major and classmate of Weiser. He said he suspected it was Weiser that died because she had not been found.

Patterson said, "in that moment, I never experienced death so close. Part of it was disbelief that it happened so fast."

He added that he was upset with himself, because they could have walked together back to her dorm.

Criner's foster mother, Eartha Burnett, also testified. She said he attended Ellison High School in Killeen. She took care of him "the same as I would my child."

Burnett said Criner was 16 when he came to her. In spring of 2016, Burnett said she made a report to Killeen police when he went missing.

She became "pancicky" because he was always at the same spot after school, waiting for her.

Prosecutors also brought in Noelia Warren, a store manager at Eyemart Express in Killeen. She said she sold glasses to Criner that had the same frame and lens prescription as those in evidence.

Austin Police Department lead detective on the case, Anthony Nelson, also testified.

To gather more information for the investigation, he went to Weiser's dorm room. He checked her bras to see if they matched the one found at the crime scene. He also took a look at her writing at her desk.

Det. Nelson said Criner was at LifeWorks in South Austin, a shelter for youth after the crime. There, a MacBook Pro with a Portland sticker on it was found in Criner's locker.

Another detective with APD testified saying a nylon strap at LifeWorks matched the kind found at the crime scene.

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On Friday, July 13, the jury heard from Austin firefighters and police officers, who testified that they saw Criner in a vacant building days before Weiser's body was found. One firefighter said Criner had lit a fire in the building, which he believed was to help the teen keep warm. He also said he noticed seeing a woman's shoe near the fire, a notebook with math problems and a woman's bike.

If convicted, Criner could face life in prison -- but he will not face the death penalty because he was a minor at the time of the crime.

KVUE's Rebeca Trejo is covering the trial. Follow her on social media for the latest updates.

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