Suspect in UT slaying may have lived near stadium, prosecutors say


12:35 p.m. update: A former University of Texas student took the witness stand Thursday in the capital murder trial of Meechaiel Criner and described a storage room at Belmont Hall that prosecutors say helps prove Criner killed dance major Haruka Weiser in 2016.

The former student, Jose Sandoval, said he had an agreement with the recreational sports department to use the room connected to Royal-Memorial Stadium to store equipment for the club crew team.

When Sandoval entered on March 30, 2016, he discovered a scene that suggested someone had been living there. Among the items he found and photographed was a shopping cart, tools, several backpacks, a gas can, a cell phone and laptop and ropes draped over a pipe.

Also found was a hammer similar to the one missing a claw that investigators found along Waller Creek near where Weiser’s body was discovered on April 5.

7:30 a.m. update:  More testimony is scheduled Thursday in the capital murder trial of Meechaiel Criner, who is accused of strangling and sexually assaulting University of Texas dance student Haruka Weiser on campus two years ago.

When the latest proceedings ended Wednesday evening, Criner’s defense was preparing to question Austin police Detective Ray Tynes about his investigation that led to the discovery of Weiser’s badly injured body along Waller Creek on April 5, 2016. She had been missing for two days.

Tynes said that, based on his investigation, it appeared Weiser never had a chance to defend herself against her attacker.

Tynes was among several people who took the witness stand on the first day that evidence was presented in the trial. Others included Weiser’s father, her roommate, and several of her friends from UT’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

FOLLOW LIVE: Courtroom updates from Meechaiel Criner’s capital murder trial

Criner, 20, has pleaded not guilty. His attorneys told the jury of seven women and five men that he was elsewhere when Weiser was killed. Attentive for most of the day, he refused to look at projectors in the courtroom when the prosecution presented graphic photos of Weiser’s body. Instead, he sipped water and conferred with his lawyer, Darla Davis.

Prosecutors say items belonging to Weiser were found in two different places in Austin where Criner had been staying after he ran away from a Killeen foster home the week before Weiser’s death.

This is a developing story; check back for details.



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