1:30 p.m. update: Austin police investigators want the public’s help in identifying a person of interest seen in video footage taken near where a UT freshman was found dead on campus earlier this week.
Haruka J. Weiser, an 18-year-old dance major, was identified by authorities on Thursday as the woman found in Waller Creek on Tuesday near the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center.
A video shown by police at a news conference Thursday shows a man walking a woman’s bicycle walking around 11 p.m. near the Darrell K Royal-Memorial Stadium.
Police also announced a $15,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the homicide investigation.
According to Assistant Police Chief Troy Gay, Weiser was last seen Sunday night around 9:30 p.m. leaving the Winship Drama Building. She had communicated with one of her friends as she traveled toward her dorm, Gay said, but she never arrived. A roommate called the UT Police Department on Monday and reported her missing at 11:30 a.m., Gay said.
UT police tried to find her through their “normal protocol” of talking to friends, acquaintances and family before finding her remains in Waller Creek on Tuesday around 10:30 a.m.
UT police called for assistance from Austin police and the Texas Department of Public Safety, and “everyone stood tall and wanted to help,” Gay said.
“We know that the public will step up as they do in every case” and help find this person of interest, he said.
UT President Gregory L. Fenves expressed his condolences to Weiser’s family and said that “as a parent, this is my worst nightmare.”
He said his administration would get help from DPS to undertake a review of security across the campus, which hosts 50,000 students. “I am prepared to take concrete steps to implement the DPS review,” he said.
“As students you expect to be safe,” Fenves said. “The attack on Haruka is an attack on our entire family.”
11:35 a.m. update: Officials have identified the woman found in Waller Creek on the University of Texas campus on Tuesday as UT freshman Haruka J. Weiser, the American-Statesman confirmed.
Weiser’s family met with university officials and law enforcement authorities Thursday and confirmed her death, a source close to the investigation said.
A news conference is planned for 1 p.m., when officials may provide more details on the case. UT President Gregory L. Fenves is expected to notify the campus before noon.
Weiser had recently left Portland and moved to Austin to start fall classes at UT on a dance scholarship, said a family member who wished to remain private. She focused primarily on ballet but did have extensive training in many forms.
“My favorite styles of dance are ballet and hip-hop,” she wrote in 2015 in a Q&A for her Portland dance school’s Facebook page, just before graduating high school. “I love the precision and grace of ballet, but at the same time, I enjoy the freedom and challenges I find in hip-hop.”
Weiser said she had been “dancing in my living room for as long as I can remember.”
In 2014, Weiser was quoted in her hometown newspaper about an upcoming ballet show.
“It really is a rush. There really is nothing like it,” Weiser said of performing.
Weiser also had hopes of possibly becoming a doctor, or going into a similar medical or scientific field, the family member said.
The last time her immediate family members, who live in Portland, saw her was in Mexico over spring break, the family member said.
Weiser’s body was found between the Winship Drama Building and her listed address in the 300 block of East 21st Street according to the UT directory, which is just a third of a mile. Her classmates said the Waller Creek trail was the route she would take home.
UT police got a report of a missing person on Monday morning, though police would not confirm whether that person was Weiser.
Missing person reports at UT are “quite common,” said Cindy Posey, UT police spokeswoman.
“We have 50,000 students,” Posey said. “A lot of those times, it turns out that they (the missing person) were just sleeping at a friend’s house.”
Fenves released the following statement:
“With great sadness, I have just learned from the Austin Police Department that Haruka Weiser, a first-year Theatre and Dance student, has been tentatively identified as the victim of this week’s homicide on campus. Austin Police Department Victim Services counselors spoke this morning with her parents and my heart goes out to them. Her death is a tragic loss for the UT community.
“Haruka was a beloved member of our dance community, liked and admired by her classmates and respected by professors for her intelligence and spirit. Dance faculty members first met Haruka more than two years ago when she performed at the National High School Dance Festival. They immediately began recruiting her to come to UT from her home in Portland, Oregon. Our community was made better by her decision to join the College of Fine Arts.
“Trained in ballet, Haruka excelled in all her performance endeavors. She was also involved in Dance Action, a student-run organization for dancers, and performed in the fall Dance Action concert.
“UTPD first learned that Haruka was missing on Monday morning and immediately began a search. As I reported in my message to campus yesterday, Austin police are leading the homicide investigation into this horrifying and incomprehensible crime and working with UTPD and other law enforcement agencies to locate and apprehend a suspect quickly.
“The unthinkable brutality against Haruka is an attack on our entire family. Law enforcement is fully engaged to do everything to bring the perpetrator who committed this crime to justice.
“I ask you to join me in expressing our deepest condolences to Haruka’s parents, family, classmates and friends and to help the university honor her life.”