At a press conference on Thursday, school officials at the Arts and Communication Magnet Academy in Oregon said they were providing additional counselors to help the small community of 710 “tight-knit” students cope with the news.
Michael Johnson, the principal at the arts-focused school, which teaches grades six through 12, said that he took the time to meet with student dancers when they initially found out that Weiser was missing. At the time the performers “expressed their hopes and fears about the girl described as a brilliant ballet and modern dancer.”
“I told them to do what Haruka would want them to do: dance,” he added. “So they found the courage and stamina to do just that.”
According to Austin Police Chief Troy Gay, Weiser – who was a first year student majoring in dance and potentially pre-med at the University of Texas – was seen leaving the campus drama building after talking with a friend on Sunday night. Authorities believe she then started going back to her dormitory, but “she never made it to her dormitory that night,” Gay said.
Around 11:30 p.m. her roommate alerted the campus police department to report her missing. Police then tried to locate her, but were unable to find her until Tuesday morning after they conducted a more thorough search and found her body in a creek on campus.
Her remains were identified on Thursday and police have since identified a suspect from surveillance video.
According to the University of Texas’ Director of Dance, Julane Stites, Weiser was at the school on full scholarship after being hand-picked by university at the National High School Dance Festival where she was seen performing.
“She had many offers, but that was the best one,” Stites said. “She adored ballet, but she was also an excellent modern dancer. She could have gone any direction she wanted.”
Weiser’s family, including her father Thomas, her sister Naomi – who is a sixth grader at the Arts and Communication Magnet Academy – and her brother Nobo – a junior at a different local high school – is currently in Austin and has been providing small updates to the high school.
“Thomas is a strong man – imagine you’re the father of a young woman you send off to college with hope and promise… and are summoned to campus and found out she is dead,” Johnson said. “You’d have to be a strong man to even get on the plane.”
Reporting by ELAINE ARADILLAS