AUSTIN — In a capital murder trial that resumed July 12, an Austin police detective took the stand to describe how a University of Texas student's body was found and what he believed happened to her before she was found.
Haruka Weiser was killed in April of 2016 and Meechaiel Criner faces a capital murder charge. If convicted, Criner will face an automatic life sentence. Investigators believe that Weiser was brutally murdered and sexually assaulted. An Austin police detective testified July 12 about his investigation and what he believes transpired around the time that Weiser was murdered.
Police have said that Weiser was attacked as she was walking home from dance practice near Waller Creek. The detective testified that her body ended up across the creek, but he doesn't know if she was carried or dragged across the rocks.
He testified that he didn’t see the obvious injuries on her hands or any other signs that would lead him to believe she fought for her life or injured her attacker. He testified he believes her attacker "rendered her completely under control immediately."
“I do know one thing, I don’t think she was able to fight for her life," the detective said.
The detective believes that Weiser's attacker gathered sticks from the area and put them on top of her body to hide her.
A crime scene specialist testified next. She described some of the evidence found at the scene, including two black socks, a spray can, a bra with reddish-brown stains, eyeglasses, a hammer with a missing claw, blood-stained boulders and a ligature that she said could possibly have been used to strangle the victim.
Next, student, Jose Sandoval, took the stand to describe Belmont 112, a room he was granted access to for crew. He said the door was open and spray painted blue when he arrived on March 30, so he was "hesitant to approach." He said he took pictures to make sure Texas Crew was not blamed for the damages. In the courtroom, pictures were shown of several items inside the room, including a laptop, a cell phone, chargers, and a hammer missing its claw. He said the lock was broken to the room and thought it might have been accessed by a squatter or homeless person.
At one point the prosecution called Robert Scott England to the stand. England works for a traffic control company that was hired out to clean the athletics facilities before and after events in March 2016.
At the time of Weiser's murder, England worked as a supervisor. Prosecutors asked England about the storage room that Criner used to hold his items. England pointed out various items that belonged to his staff in a picture: trash can with cleaning supplies and dollies for the trashcans. England said he didn't recognize a hammer, gloves, broom, ropes and strap.
England said he encountered a man in the storage unit, cleaning up his things. England said he left the room and found the man at Red River Street and Dean Keaton with a shopping cart full of items, England said the man spoke with a slurred speech.
Criner's attorney's questioned England afterward. England described the man as polite and said he "didn't give any trouble." When Criner's attorney's questioned England about the contents of the storage room, England noted that the room was cluttered but said his main focus was finding the person who was occupying the storage unit.
Later, other security officials were called to the stand. One who worked for the University Federal Credit Union and another a security technician for UT. Both recalled viewing surveillance video from that night resembling both Haruka and the suspect. The UT technician said he and another spent 650 hours reviewing video. In the video, a person is seen getting off his bike to follow a person in black. The person in black is seen walking with their phone and the man can be seen reaching behind his back to grab something as he starts to follow them.
Weiser's father was the first witness to take the stand on the first day of opening arguments Wednesday. He testified about the book he gave his daughter, which was later found among Criner's belongings.
The prosecution also used the first day of opening arguments to outline the timeline of Weiser's death.
Reporter Molly Oak is giving live updates on the trial. Follow her on Twitter here.