Laura Collins, Daily Mail, January 5, 2016
A Marine has been arrested on suspicion of murdering a 20-year-old sorority sister in an apparent road rage fight on New Year’s Eve.
Cpl Eric Johnson, of Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1, was arrested at his air base in Yuma, Arizona, on Tuesday morning–five days after University of North Texas student Sara Mutschlechner was fatally shot in the head as she drove three friends home from a party.
According to police, shots were fired from a black SUV that pulled up beside her as she was driving through Denton, Texas, in the early hours of New Year’s Day.
Daily Mail Online understands Johnson, 20, is an administrative specialist and had been stationed at the Marine Corp Air Station in Yuma since August 12, 2013. It is unclear if he was on holiday leave.
He will be detained in Yuma County Jail until he is extradited to Texas.
A Denton police spokesman told reporters members of the SUV made ‘very derogatory’ comments ‘of a sexual nature’ towards the female occupants of Sara’s car after pulling up alongside them at 2am.
One of Sara’s male friends hit back that the comments were inappropriate, sparking an argument, the spokesman said. He said Sara’s party did not make derogatory comments in response.
As Sara drove off towards the intersection at West University Drive, shots were fired from the SUV and she was hit in the head.
The 20-year-old immediately lost control of her sedan, veered to the right into a parked car then crashed into an electrical pole.
She was taken to hospital and treated for her wounds but died later on New Year’s Day.
Another girl in Sara’s car broke her collar bone, and was treated in a local hospital.
Police said at least two of the men in the SUV had been at the same party as Sara and her three friends but the groups are not believed to have interacted until the dispute between their vehicles.
They insisted that the investigation is ongoing. Detectives are examining surveillance film taken from a nearby business, which is believed to show the vehicle involved.
Mutschlechner’s devastated parents have revealed that she was an organ donor–and that she has already helped a burns victim.
In an interview with Fox 4, the parents of Mutschlechner said their daughter–a junior at the University of North Texas–had dreamed of being a film director or producer and that being an organ donor was a cause close to her heart.
Her father Clay called the killing ‘senseless and tragic’ while her mother Gloria said: ‘All I could think about was her and this horrible thing that happened to her. She did not deserve this.’
Clay added: ‘We’re all going to miss her. Some people don’t get to have their kids 20 years. We have to be blessed with what we’ve had with our time spent.’
Fox 4 revealed that Mutschlechner’s decision to be an organ donor had already helped a burns victim.
Mutschlechner, philanthropy chair of the school’s Zeta Tau Alpha chapter, was taken to hospital to be placed on life support after the shooting, and was pronounced dead hours later on January 1.
Witnesses told police there were ‘five or six African American males’ in the SUV, and that at least two had been at the same party as Mutschlechner.
Around 60 people were at the house party and witnesses say Mutschlechner was designated driver on the night.
Paying tribute to Mutschlechner on Saturday, her sorority–Zeta Tau Alpha–posted on Facebook: ‘Our thoughts are with the sisters, family and friends of Gamma Phi Chapter (University of North Texas) member Sara Mutschlechner, who passed away in a tragic accident this weekend.’
The post quoted chapter president Jordan Roberts, who said: ‘Each and every one of our lives at the Gamma Phi Chapter of ZTA has been touched by the spunky, selfless attitude of our beloved sister, Sara.
‘She is by far one of the most spirited, honest and fun-loving people I ever had the privilege to know. She will truly be missed.’
According to her LinkedIn page, Mutschlechner had done some volunteer work for the American Cancer Society.
She had also worked as a waitress and made a short horror film as she explored film-making.
UNT spokesman Margarita Venegas told ABC: ‘The university is saddened by the loss of one of our community members. Our thoughts are with Sara’s family and friends.’
A candlelit vigil was held at the school on Saturday night.
‘It goes to show that she was who she was and she wasn’t afraid to be herself,’ NBC quoted Jordan Roberts, Sara’s sorority sister as saying.
‘She lived with joy and laughed with grace and didn’t care what other people thought. She was happy. And we all should be a little more like that.’