DENTON – An arrest has been made in connection to the New Year's Day murder of a popular University of North Texas student.
Eric Jamal Johnson, 25, was taken into custody after being located in Yuma, Arizona by the U.S. Marshal Service Tuesday morning after a warrant for his arrest was issued by the Denton Police Department. Johnson is a Marine and was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, according to Marine Corps Public Affairs Officer Captain Justin Smith. Johnson was arrested at the base at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Sara Mutschlechner, 20, was the designated driver for her sorority sisters after a New Year's Eve party when she was shot in the head while driving near the intersection of Elm Street and University Drive in Denton.
According to Officer Shane Kizer with the Denton Police Department, the suspect's vehicle, a silver Honda Pilot, pulled up next to Mutschlechner's vehicle around 2 a.m. on New Year's Day. Two of the occupants of the Honda had also attended the party that Mutschlechner and her friends had attended, but authorities are not aware of any interaction between the two groups at the party.
Kizer said some of the occupants of the suspect's vehicle began talking with the occupants of Mutschlechner's vehicle and it was amicable, until the men in the suspect's vehicle began making derogatory comments towards the women in the victim's vehicle. That led to heated words being exchanged between the groups before someone in the suspect's SUV fired two shots at the other vehicle.
Mutschlechner was struck in the head by one of the shots and lost control of the vehicle, eventually crashing into an electric pole. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police stopped short of identifying Johnson as the shooter in a news conference Tuesday, but they said Johnson was seen with a handgun in the suspect vehicle prior to the shooting.
Officer Kizer said authorities began pursuing Johnson based off of witness interviews and social media information. They were able to track down the suspect beginning with his street name, "Santana Sage."
Authorities say Johnson has family ties to the North Texas area. He has been in the Marines since Aug. 2013.
Several hundred people held a candlelight vigil over the weekend to honor Sara.
Students say they're relieved over the quick arrest.