The homeless teenager accused of killing a University of Texas freshman claimed to have had a chaotic childhood marked by violence and abuse.
Meechaiel Criner, who is charged with killing 18-year-old Haruka Weiser, spoke about his personal hell in a December 2014 interview with a student magazine in Texarkana, Texas. A source close to the investigation said details in the article match what they know of the suspect.
"I've been bullied almost my whole life," Criner was quoted as saying in The Tiger Times, a publication at Texas High School. "In elementary school, I would come home crying almost every day. It was because of my accent, you see. People couldn't understand me."
Criner was living in an Austin, Texas, shelter before he was arrested Thursday, authorities said. Texas Child Protective Services said he was under their care, but was on "runaway status," an agency official said. Criner checked in with a case manager this week, the agency said. That meeting occurred after he was spotted allegedly setting a fire in which evidence in the killing was found.
It was not clear when Criner left Texarkana and arrived in Austin. But in the article, the teenager is quoted as saying he and his four siblings were placed by Child Protective Services in foster homes and were later taken in by their grandmother.
Criner said his grandmother became like a second mother to him. "She's a sweet person. She's independent," he said. "My grandmother, she takes care of us. I'm always grateful to her."
Before that, Criner said he spent six months living in an abusive foster home.
"They say CPS is supposed to be a good place, but it's not," Criner said in the article. "At first, it didn't seem that bad. But as the days passed on, it turned out that foster care is almost — well, almost a prison."
Criner said he had a foster parent who once locked him in a bathroom and who threw him to the ground so hard he hurt his back. "It was a really harsh time in my life," Criner said. "People can be mean and hateful."
Criner said the experience made him determined to not be a bully. "I like to stand up for people," he said. "I like to help others."
In the article, Criner was unclear about what he wanted to do with his life.
"Every day, I feel people think I'm not capable of much," Criner said. "What I want to leave behind is my name — I want them to know who Meechaiel Criner is."