AUSTIN, Texas — Meechaiel Criner was found guilty of capital murder in connection to the death of University of Texas at Austin student Haruka Weiser on April 3, 2016.
Officials said Weiser was on her way home from dance practice when she was attacked. Her naked, bruised body was found covered with brush between two boulders alongside Waller Creek on April 5, 2016.
Prosecutors said she was strangled to death with a yellow nylon strap. They said she also suffered injuries to her face, and it appeared her head was beaten against a hard object, possibly a boulder.
Criner was not only accused of murdering the UT dance freshman, he's also suspected of sexually assaulting her.
Here's everything you need to know:
Places to know
Waller Creek: Weiser’s body was found covered with brush, between two boulders alongside the creek.
Medical Arts building: Firefighters and police found Criner asleep next to a small fire in a vacant building. They told him to pack up his belongings, and police took him to a shelter, LifeWorks.
LifeWorks shelter: Police arrested Criner on April 8, 2016 at the shelter. They also collected several items as evidence.
UT storage room: Criner was spotted on March 30, 2016 in the room filled with various items like a backpack, ropes, tools, cleaning supplies, a shopping cart with food and electronics.
No more DNA evidence
In pretrial hearings, the judge opted to toss out DNA evidence from the crime scene because of an error when it was processed in the DPS lab.
Day one of testimony: Father and friends speak about final moments
Witnesses said Weiser was working as a stagehand and was last seen wearing all black, carrying a blue duffel bag with items, including a laptop, a sweater, a book from her parents and a calculus book to do homework. A witness said she suddenly stopped answering texts around 9:40 p.m. Prosecutors said police later found what they believe are Weiser’s belongings and clothes among Criner’s belongings.
Day two of testimony: 650 hours of security footage later
Security technicians said surveillance video showed an African American man following someone, dressed in black, down a path around 9:40 p.m. on April 3, 2016. They said the man was wearing an orange bandana on his neck, a black jacket with patches on the sleeve, a backpack and glasses. The person had a red, women’s bike that appeared to have tape on the handlebars.
At 11:25 p.m. he was spotted again, missing glasses and holding a blue bag. On other days, they saw him wearing a green trench coat and a neon green T-shirt.
Day three of testimony: Not so vacant building
Firefighters said they remember seeing a half-burnt, black shoe near the fire they found Criner next to, a notebook with math problems and a red women’s bike, which they took to the station for safekeeping. Dashcam video shows Criner with a few bags, including a blue duffel that prosecutors said is Weiser’s. A police officer recalled seeing a silver laptop in his backpack.
A detective said he found items later shown as evidence in a trash bin outside the building. The items included a half-burnt, black shoe, black pants, a black turtleneck, a black jacket and an orange bandana. He also collected items from the burnt pile and suspects someone tried to destroy Weiser’s phone, which was never recovered.
Remember the glasses found at the crime scene?
A store manager from Eyemart Express said she sold glasses to Criner with the same frame and lens prescription as those found at the crime scene. Criner’s foster mother also testified that he wore glasses. The defense argued the glasses could belong to someone else.
Witnesses said they found a hair on the neon green shirt collected from the trash bin outside the vacant building. DNA analysts said results showed the hair could belong to Weiser. Analysts said they could exclude 99.89 percent of the North American population, including Criner and his relatives, from having that particular mitochondrial DNA type.
Criner took the stand Wednesday after the judge made sure he knew this was giving up his “valuable” right to remain silent.
Two writings of Criner’s were shown to the courtroom, both of which depicted violence and rape.
Criner laughed multiple times during his testimony. However, his demeanor changed when defense asked if he killed Haruka Weiser.
"Mick, did you kill Haruka Weiser," the defense asked.
"No sir," Criner replied.
Criner also recounted his past and what happened after he decided to hitchhike to Austin. He said he was at the vacant Medical Arts building the night Weiser was killed.
Criner said, the next day on April 4, he found a red bike and some bags with various items inside, including a blue bag with one shoe and a laptop among other things. Prosecutors say the blue bag, shoe and laptop are Weiser’s.
After four hours of closing arguments and four and a half hours of deliberation, the jury could not reach a verdict. The judge dismissed the jury for the day at around 7 p.m. Thursday.
Judge Wahlberg said the jury requested “voluminous” amount of evidence to view. Jury deliberations will continue at 8 a.m. Friday.
“I think you messed with the wrong girl that night,” Thomas Weiser, Haruka Weiser’s dad, said as he took the stand one last time.
Just after 2 p.m. on Friday July 20, a Travis County jury found Criner guilty of capital murder.
"In the end, [Haruka] did prevail because her spirit, her bright faith is looking down on this scene right now and smiling with the satisfaction that not only were you caught, but convicted for the terrible crimes you committed against her,” Weiser said.
Criner was sentenced to life in prison, but he can be eligible for parole after 40 years.
"I promise you this, the Texas State Board of Paroles and Pardons will need to build a new room to hold all the letters that I and everyone that loves Haruka will be writing to make sure that your twisted fantasies remain just that,” Weiser said.
Follow reporter Molly Oak on Twitter for live updates from the courtroom.