Investigators with the Denton Police Department say they are confident a 20-year-old Marine is their gunman after more interviews with witnesses to the New Year Day murder of a University of North Texas student.
Public Information Officer Shane Kizer said Wednesday that the department has now identified the four passengers who were riding in the vehicle with Eric Johnson the night 20-year-old Sara Mutschlechner was gunned down, and they continue to interview them.
"Right now, we're just looking at them as witnesses, obviously things could change as we continue on with the investigation,” said Kizer.
Kizer said while no additional charges have come yet they are now very confident that Johnson was the lone gunman in the situation.
On New Year’s Day at just after 2 a.m., Mutschlechner was shot in the head while driving in the 1700 block of North Elm Street after leaving a party.
According to the arrest warrant for Johnson, members of his vehicle and Mutschlechner’s engaged in conversation between the vehicles that eventually lead to “lewd comments” being made towards the UNT junior and her passengers. When one of the women responded that they didn’t appreciate that, the warrant said the vehicles continued down the road and shots were fired striking Mutschlechner and sending her car into a pole.
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The UNT ZTA sorority sister and film major died later that day at the hospital.
Johnson was arrested Tuesday by U.S. Marshals at a marine base in Yuma, Arizona and Kizer said he is still in custody there as of Wednesday.
Police said Tuesday that social media posts as well as witness accounts and surveillance video from near the crime scene helped lead them to Johnson.
On Thursday, Johnson is expected to appear before a judge in Yuma in hopes of moving the extradition process further. Kizer said it’s unclear exactly how long it will take to get him back to North Texas at this time, especially if Johnson contests the process.
Family members confirmed to the NBC affiliate in Austin that the visitation service for Mutschlechner was to be held Wednesday, and an online obituary shows funeral services for her scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday in Austin. The family has asked for privacy during those events.
Back in Denton, a memorial to Mutschlechner grows at the crash site on North Elm Street and the University of North Texas flags across campus have been lowered to half-staff for the week, a tradition at the school to mourn the loss of “a fallen eagle.”