AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A homeless teenager suspected of strangling a dance student at the University of Texas in Austin has been charged with capital murder, which can bring a life sentence in prison, an indictment released on Friday said.
Meechaiel Criner, 17, taken into custody in April, was charged by a grand jury in Travis County this week for the murder of Haruka Weiser, 18, of Portland, Oregon, whose death sent shockwaves across the campus and among its 64,000 students, faculty and staff.
Weiser's body was found behind the university's alumni center. It was the first on-campus killing at the university since a 1966 mass shooting by a sniper.
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Criner, listed as a runaway by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, was also accused of sexually assaulting Weiser, the indictment said.
Capital murder can bring the death penalty but since Criner is 17, he is too young under law to be executed if he is found guilty. If sentenced to life, he must serve at least 40 years in prison before he can be considered for parole, the Travis County District Attorney's office said.
Criner is being held at the Travis County Jail on a bond of $1 million.
"As our campus continues to mourn the loss of Haruka Weiser, I deeply appreciate the tireless work of law enforcement and the district attorney's office to investigate and prosecute this crime," University of Texas at Austin President Gregory Fenves said in a statement.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by David Gregorio and Cynthia Osterman)