Friends call slain Portland dancer an inspiration - KPTV - FOX 12

Friends call slain Portland dancer an inspiration

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Haruka Weiser (Family photo provided to FOX 12) Haruka Weiser (Family photo provided to FOX 12)
Photo courtesy: Dance West. Photo courtesy: Dance West.
Portland teen Haruka Weiser has been identified as the student found on the University of Texas campus earlier this week. (Facebook) Portland teen Haruka Weiser has been identified as the student found on the University of Texas campus earlier this week. (Facebook)
Surveillance image of suspect wanted in connection with the killing of Haruka Weiser at the University of Texas. Surveillance image of suspect wanted in connection with the killing of Haruka Weiser at the University of Texas.
AUSTIN, TX (KPTV) -

The Portland community is reeling with the loss of a ballet star known for not only her talent, but dedication and kindness.

Haruka Weiser, 18, was found slain in a creek Tuesday at the University of Texas where she was a freshman theater and dance student. Police said Weiser had been walking back to her dorm when she was attacked, assaulted and killed.

Her horrific death is shocking and heartbreaking for friends back in Oregon who danced with and attended school with Weiser in Beaverton.

"It's like losing a family member for everyone,” said Brigit Cheshire, who danced with Weiser competitively on a Portland team. “It's bringing everyone together because nobody ever expected anything like this to happen."

Sean Oulashin graduated with Weiser last year from the small, tight-knit Arts and Communication Magnet Academy in Beaverton.

"I didn't want to believe it,” Oulashin said. “It’s devastating. She was taken too early.”

University police first learned Weiser was missing Monday morning, and her body was discovered in a creek near the school’s alumni center late Tuesday morning. The medical examiner determined her death was a homicide. 

Friends say they’re angry and saddened by her death, but most importantly want to honor and remember her as a talented dancer who was an even better person.

"She was an inspiration to everyone that had the pleasure of working with her,” Cheshire said. "As a dancer, she would move you, as a person and a friend she was kind and gentle -- and so humble too."

Weiser attended the college on a full dance scholarship and had aspirations to someday help people as a doctor.

University police first learned Weiser was missing Monday morning, and her body was discovered in a creek near the school’s alumni center late Tuesday morning. The medical examiner determined her death was a homicide. 

The Austin Police Department released more details about the investigation during a news conference Thursday.

Investigators said Weiser was seen leaving the drama building on campus at around 9:30 p.m. Sunday. She communicated with a friend as she headed back to her dorm, but she never arrived there.

Her roommates called university police to report Weiser missing Monday morning.

Police said Weiser had been assaulted, but no other details about the crime were released citing the ongoing investigation. No weapon associated with the killing has been found, police said.

Detectives released surveillance video of a suspect in this case. He is a black man, 6 feet tall and he was caught on camera in the campus area riding a bicycle.

A $15,000 reward was offered in the case. 

Weiser's family released a statement saying she was a passionate and dedicated dancer and was in the process of declaring a second major in pre-med studies. The family called their pain, "unfathomable."

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.

In a statement by University of Texas President Gregory L. Fenves, Weiser was called a “beloved member of our dance 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.

Weiser graduated from Arts and Communication Magnet Academy in Beaverton last year.

The Austin, Texas Police Department posted the announcement that a suspect has been taken into custody. 

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