Defendant Meechaiel Criner denies murdering Haruka Weiser during trial

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Photo Credit: Carlos Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

Meechaiel Criner testified Wednesday that he had nothing to do with the homicide of dance freshman Haruka Weiser.

Criner said that while he had never seen Weiser before, he thought he would be found guilty because he did not have a solid alibi. Criner said it was obvious that someone had murdered, sexually assaulted, kidnapped and robbed Weiser, but that he did not commit any of those crimes.

“Y’all should focus on continuing the investigation because I’m more worried about who really did this,” Criner said. “Violence like this makes me angry.”

James Walters, a Georgetown Police Department officer, testified that he brought Criner from a gas station near Georgetown to St. David’s Medical Center in Austin on March 23, 2016. Walters said Criner originally wanted to go to the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless.

“(Criner) didn’t say he knew anybody, but that’s where he wanted to go,” Walters said. “He said something about blisters on his feet from walking so far, (so) I said I thought it would be better if I dropped him off at a hospital.”

After Walters dropped him off at the hospital, Criner said he went to a storage room at Belmont Hall, where he stayed before being asked to leave by UT employees on March 30, 2016.

Criner said that when he left the room, he forgot his glasses in the storage room and was never able to retrieve them because the door was locked when he returned. The prosecution says Criner’s glasses were found at the scene of Weiser’s death.

“When I left the stadium, I left stuff behind on purpose and on accident,” Criner said. “I forgot two of my bags because I had a lot of bags there and my glasses. (The glasses from the crime scene) look kind of like my glasses, but they’re too small.”

After leaving the storage room, Criner said he went to the abandoned building at 2911 Medical Arts St., where he said he began to live. On April 3, 2016, the day of Weiser’s death, Criner said he went to the hospital to access their Wi-Fi connection and then walked back to the abandoned building before sunset.

“I got lost a bit (after walking back from the hospital), but I managed to find my way back,” Criner said. “By the time the sun set, I was back in the building … and then I went to sleep.”

Criner said he went to some dumpsters on April 4, 2016, and found a red women’s bicycle, along with clothes, ropes and other items in a trash bag. Prosecutors say this bicycle is the one seen in a surveillance video taken April 3, 2016, of the suspect walking toward Waller Creek in the same direction as another person, who prosecutors say was Weiser.

Criner said after finding these items, he started a fire inside the abandoned building to stay warm. Criner said he found one Dr. Martens shoe, which prosecutors say belonged to Weiser, in the same trash bag and accidentally threw it into the fire. Criner said he didn’t notice the shoe was burning until the smoke started turning black.

After firefighters responded to the fire, police took Criner to LifeWorks, a youth homeless shelter, where he was eventually arrested by police on April 8, 2016. Criner said he was confused
when a detective eventually questioned him about the murder.

“I know I’m in jail and all, but (being arrested) was the most awesome thing that ever happened to me,” Criner said. “These guys had these dogs and huge guns and were like, ‘Get down on the ground.’ I thought they were arresting me for the fire.”

The prosecution questioned Criner about two of his sexually explicit writings, both of which have multiple mentions of violence and rape. Criner said he wrote one of the documents when he was 12 years old and the other when he was 17.

Criner and his defense attorneys said these writings were unrelated to the crime he is accused of. The prosecution said they show a history of sexual violence for the defendant, who was also indicted on charges of sexual assault, kidnapping
and robbery.

At the end of his questioning, defense attorney Ariel Payan asked Criner if he committed the murder or if he had ever met Weiser, to which Criner responded, “No sir.”

“I just came here to tell my story,” Criner said.