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Trial in fatal shooting of University of Arizona professor begins

A former University of Arizona graduate student accused of killing a professor on campus showed premeditation and intent in the 2022 fatal shooting, according to prosecutors.

Murad Dervish’s trial began Tuesday and is expected to last two weeks in Pima County Superior Court.

Dervish, 48, faces seven felony charges including first-degree murder in the death of Thomas Meixner, who was shot nine times inside a campus building on Oct. 5, 2022.

Meixner, 52, headed the university’s Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences and was an expert on desert water issues. Dervish had been a student in the Atmospheric Science program.

Authorities said Dervish was banned from the school in January 2022 and later expelled for ongoing issues with professors after he received a bad grade.

“This isn’t a case about whether or not the defendant was the one who pulled the trigger and shot and killed Professor Meixner,” Deputy Pima County Attorney Hayley Weigold told jurors in her opening statement Tuesday, according to the Arizona Daily Star. “What it’s about is the intentional killing of Professor Meixner and knowing right from wrong.”

Attorneys for Dervish have chosen to wait to make their statement until after the state rests its case. They may be seeking an insanity defense.

But Weigold told the jury that Dervish fled the scene after the shooting so he knew that criminal act was wrong.

Dervish was arrested after Arizona state troopers stopped his car on a highway more than 120 miles northwest of Tucson.

Authorities said a loaded 9 mm handgun was found in the vehicle and the ammunition was consistent with the shell casings found at the shooting scene.

According to a criminal complaint, a flyer with a photograph of Dervish had been circulated to university staff in February 2022 with instructions to call 911 if he ever entered the Harshbarger Building.

The complaint also said Dervish was barred from being on school property and he had been the subject of several reports of harassment and threats to staff members working at Harshbarger.

Lawyers for Meixner’s family said Dervish had threatened the professor in the past and entered the building without being stopped or followed.

University President Robert Robbins said campus police tried to get Dervish charged two separate times before the shooting and took the complaints to Pima County prosecutors, but they were told there wasn’t enough evidence.

Meixner’s family filed a $9 million notice of claim — a precursor to a lawsuit — in March 2023, saying there were numerous ways the university failed to protect him and the rest of the community.

The school and the Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s three public universities, reached a $2.5 million settlement with Meixner’s family in January.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the program Murad was a student in.

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Associated Press