A first-year University of Texas dance student whose body was found near the heart of campus was the victim of a “horrifying and incomprehensible” killing that was the first on school grounds since the bell tower mass shooting nearly 50 years ago, university officials said Thursday.
UT President Greg Fenves identified the victim as 18-year-old Haruka Weiser of Portland, Oregon, during a somber news conference, and said the “unthinkable brutality against Haruka is an attack on our entire family.” Students who spoke later in the day at a vigil that drew hundreds of people on the Austin campus said the killing will leave them unsettled during their nightly walks home.
Weiser was last seen around 9:30 p.m. Sunday leaving UT’s drama building. “She never made it to her dormitory that night,” Assistant Austin Police Chief Troy Gay said.
Her roommates reported her missing shortly before noon the following day, and Weiser’s body was discovered Tuesday in a creek near the alumni center and football stadium, an area bustling with activity day and night.
The route to her dorm often took her along the creek where her body was recovered, and Gay said authorities “knew the direction that she traveled” based on what she texted to one of her friends.
Details of how Weiser died haven’t been released. An autopsy showed that she was assaulted, but Gay refused to elaborate, saying it was too early in the investigation.
Gay showed a surveillance video of a man he said was a suspect pushing a red or pink bicycle north of the stadium around 11 p.m. Sunday. Gay said there was no indication that the man in the video was a student or that he had sought to target Weiser specifically. He said authorities believe the man was in the area for at least a couple of hours, and that no weapon was recovered.
Weiser’s was the first on-campus homicide since former Marine Charles Whitman climbed to the top of UT’s bell tower on Aug. 1, 1966, and opened fire, killing 16 people and wounding scores of others.