Police arrest suspect in death of University of Texas student Haruka Weiser

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UPDATE – A suspect is in custody in connection with the death of University of Texas freshman Haruka Weiser, the Austin police tweeted Friday. The arrest came after Austin firefighters alerted police about a small fire involving a book bag that may have contained some of Weiser’s belongings, Austin fire spokeswoman Michelle Tanzola said.

Austin police have  scheduled a 10:30am press conference on the case.

AUSTIN, TX – Authorities believe they have a suspect in the death of a student at The University of Texas at Austin, but they don’t know his name and are asking for the public’s help.

Haruka Weiser, a first-year theater and dance major, was last seen leaving the drama building Sunday night. Her body was found Tuesday in the area of Waller Creek on campus.

“At this time, we do not know the identity of the suspect,” Troy Gay, assistant police chief at the Austin Police Department, told reporters Thursday. “We know that the public will step up as they do in every case and help us to identify who the suspect is.”

Gay showed surveillance video of the suspect walking with a bike. He described the person as a black male, approximately 6 feet tall.

“That’s about all we have at this point. We clearly need the community’s assistance in this matter of identifying this person,” Gay said.

Weiser’s family released a statement to thank the university community for its support and ask for privacy. In addition to dance, she was declaring a second major in premed and had plans to visit family in Japan this summer.

“Although Haruka loved to perform on stage she never sought the spotlight in her daily life. Perhaps the last thing she would want is to be the poster child for any cause.

“And yet, as we struggle to understand why she was killed, if her death can somehow make it safer for a young woman to walk home, if it will prevent another assault or murder, then at least we could find some meaning behind an otherwise senseless and tragic death,” her family wrote.

University President Gregory L. Fenves described the crime as a parent’s worst nightmare, and said that students should expect and deserve to be safe.

He has directed extra patrols and asked for a Department of Public Safety review of campus.

“The unimaginable brutality against Haruka is an attack on our entire family. Law enforcement is doing everything they can to bring the perpetrator of this heinous crime to justice,” said Fenves.

Authorities are offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to the suspect’s identification and arrest.

The following statement was shared on April 7 by the family of Haruka Weiser:

Haruka Juliana Tsunemine Weiser, our beloved daughter, sister and friend was taken from us too soon. We will forever miss her; the pain of our sudden and tragic loss is unfathomable. We are grateful for all the support, kindness and prayers that have been offered to us. Words cannot express the outpouring of love we have received.

Haruka was a passionate and dedicated dancer and student. She was so happy to be a student at UT and was looking forward to the chance to perform again as a Dance Major and she was declaring a second major in pre-med studies, too. She had plans to explore the world of medicine this summer and to travel to visit family in Japan.

Although Haruka loved to perform on stage she never sought the spotlight in her daily life. Perhaps the last thing she would want it to be the poster child for any cause. And yet, as we struggle to understand why she was killed, if her death can somehow make it safer for a young woman to walk home, if it will prevent another assault or murder, then at least we could find some meaning behind an otherwise senseless and tragic death. To her friends, the many of students at UT and at her high school in all the dance programs in which she participated we are united in prayer for Haruka and for each other. No parent, brother, sister or friend should have to face this kind of sadness, this kind of loss.

Yet, many do. And now we have joined that family. At UT, Haruka did make many friends and received so much support from this community. We know Haruka would not wish for us be stuck in sadness but to keep living life to the fullest; that is what we will try to do in the coming days. And we offer prayers and encouragement for you to do the same.

Thank you for respecting our privacy at this time. 

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