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Witnesses testify in trial of former UA student charged in professor's killing

Witnesses have begun testifying in the trial of Murad Dervish, the former University of Arizona grad student accused of shooting professor Thomas Meixner to death on campus.

Dervish faces seven felony charges including first-degree murder. His trial began Tuesday and is expected to last two weeks in Pima County Superior Court. 

Dervish is accused of shooting the hydrology professor nine times inside a campus building in October 2022. Dervish was expelled at the time of the shooting.

Witness Erma Santander was working in an office that Dervish allegedly pushed Meixner into before the shooting. 

“I heard pow, pow, pow, bang, bang, bang," she said. "I’m still not even identifying what that was. I saw Meixner walk in through the door and all of a sudden I see him raise his hand up.”

Santander said she heard Meixner say,“I knew you were gonna ...” before falling to the ground.

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

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Senior field correspondent Bridget Dowd has a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.