A Murder Provides a Lesson in Evil at the University of Texas
Haruka Weiser was lovely and full of promise – a dance major in her freshman year with a full scholarship at the University of Texas in Austin. She had planned to declare a second major in pre-med. Her brutal murder nearly two weeks ago, in the heart of the idyllic campus, happened during an utterly routine part of her day: She was walking to her dorm room from the drama building at 9:30 p.m. -- using a well-traveled sidewalk dimly illuminated with street lights. She was part of the wardrobe crew for an upcoming production.
Weiser's murder has shocked and unnerved many of the university's 50,000 students and staff; they are now fretting about safety on a campus surrounded by a city with growing social problems. The horrific crime, the first on-campus murder in 50 years, also has given students a hard life lesson: an up-close look at evil – real evil -- as opposed to all those faux evils and injustices that left-leaning professors and campus social warriors have constantly warned them about – "microaggressions,” sexism, politically incorrect language, and what not.
The evil responsible for Weiser's death at 18 years old is brutal and ugly -- right out of what might be called inner-city ghetto subculture with all its violence, dysfunction, and its many children who grow up without fathers. And it is embodied in Weiser's alleged killer: a troubled black 17-year-old named Meechaiel Criner – a ticking time bomb, as some described him – who was the youngest of five siblings of a drug addict mother. Criner never knew his father. He was parented for a time by his grandmother, who was accused of physically abusing him and who consequently was ordered by child-welfare authorities to take anger-management classes. Criner had recently been in foster care and was attending high school, but he ran away; and like many in Texas who are homeless (or who embrace the homeless lifestyle) he gravitated to politically liberal Austin, a Democratic mecca well-known for its tolerant attitudes and reputation for providing easy pickings for panhandlers, drifters, and illegal immigrants. His grandmother told reporters that he had a quick temper, and said she always thought he would one day kill or be killed.
Curiously, Criner seemed to actually enjoy his victim status and the attention it brought him. In a strange article in his high school newspaper, he talked candidly about his troubled past. “I've been bullied almost my whole life. In elementary school I would come home crying almost every day. It was because of my accent, you see. People couldn't understand me.”
On Sunday evening, April 3, Criner was hanging out on the University of Texas campus, riding a pink woman's bicycle on a wide sidewalk. Weiser walked past him while looking at her cell phone. Something caught Criner's eye – or perhaps annoyed him. He put his kick-stand down and pulled a “shiny rigid object” out of his pocket, according to a police affidavit. He followed her. The scene was captured on surveillance video, but what happened next was apparently not recorded or has not been released to the public.
The following Tuesday, Weiser's body was found in picturesque Waller Creek, near the alumni center and football stadium, noted the affidavit. Citing unidentified police sources, the Austin American-Statesman reported that Weiser was strangled and sexually assaulted.
Criner's undoing came soon after the murder, when he started a small fire in a vacant building and burned some of Weiser's things, including a notebook. A woman who reported the fire, and the firefighters who had responded to it, subsequently identified Criner as the suspect in the surveillance video. Firefighters told police that Criner had been taken to a homeless shelter. It was the first on-campus murder since the sniper shooting 50 years ago from atop the university's iconic main building, known as The Tower.
The news media in recent days has played up Criner's dysfunctional background, almost portraying him in a sympathetic light -- and thus suggesting that the random and brutal murder was part of a larger tragedy. Criner was said to be mentally slow (though he had been taking high school courses before embracing the street life); and while he was widely described as being “homeless,” he in fact had run away last March from the high school he was attending in Killeen, a city 70 miles north of Austin.
Criner's grandmother, the child abuser, has come to his support and expressed doubts that he killed anybody. A sister who said she is a second-year law student flatly insisted her brother was innocent. And an uncle remarked, “This kid don't know nothing about killing. His mind don't compute like that.” None of them explained how Criner came to have Haruka Weiser's Apple notebook.
Weiser's parents, who live near Beaverton, Oregon, have limited their comments to saying they loved their daughter and want to honor her memory. They were identified as Dr. Thomas Weiser, a medical epidemiologist with the Portland Area Indian Health Service, and Yasuyo Tsunemine, 50, a medical social worker at Fresenius Medical Care, a dialysis provider. Weiser also is survived by a younger brother and sister.
Police have maintained a heavy presence on campus since the murder. Students are being advised to remain vigilant about their surroundings and avoid walking alone at night; and they are being encouraged to utilize ride services after dark. University officials, meanwhile, are pondering how to deal with a homeless population that gravitates toward the campus – a population that students, in a recent survey published before Weiser's murder, had expressed concerns about. “Many students currently perceive that a small portion of the homeless community threatens their health and safety,” stated a resolution adopted by the student government.” It noted that 84 percent of students felt “the homeless population near and on UT’s campus present a concern for student safety and that a strong majority of 69 percent of students felt that any solution ought to promote the well-being of the homeless.”
Notice the high-minded proviso: “promote the well-being of the homeless.” That attitude explains why the homeless (and those who freely embrace that lifestyle) enjoy the panhandling and freebies that are readily available on a college campus.
Weiser's murder comes on the heels of a horrific hit-and-run in which a University of Texas student riding her bicycle home at 10 p.m. was run over by a pickup -- and dragged nearly one half mile. Ignoring her screams, the driver left her lying in the street, horribly disfigured. Police subsequently arrested the alleged driver, an illegal immigrant from Mexico. Hit-and-run accidents -- a phenomenon in states like Texas, with high populations of illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America -- have at times reached epidemic proportions in Austin. They have claimed the lives of more than a few college students.
With liberal Democrats controlling the levers of power in Austin, expect the mayhem to continue.