Sentencing awaits for former Arizona grad student convicted of killing professor

TUCSON, Ariz. — A former University of Arizona graduate student convicted of fatally shooting a hydrology professor on campus months after he was expelled could face life in prison when he is sentenced Monday.

A Pima County Superior Court jury last month Murad found Dervish guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Thomas Meixner, who was shot 11 times near his office on October 5, 2022.

Dervish, 48, was also convicted of five other crimes, including aggravated assault for a bullet that grazed a building manager.

Jurors deliberated for less than three hours on May 21 before reaching their verdict against Dervishes.

Prosecutors have said Dervish should receive life in prison without parole.

Dervish’s attorney said his client was in the midst of a psychotic episode at the time of the shooting and urged jurors to consider a lesser charge of second-degree murder, which could have meant incarceration in a psychiatric hospital instead of a prison cell.

But prosecutors said evidence showed Dervish had plans Meixner’s murder and bought a 9mm pistol a month before using it in the shooting.

Meixner, 52, led the university’s Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences. Dervish completed a master’s degree in atmospheric sciences.

Authorities said Dervish was expelled from the school in January 2022 and later expelled due to ongoing problems with professors after receiving a bad grade.

According to a criminal complaint, a flyer with a photo of Dervish was then distributed to university staff in February 2022 with instructions to call 911 if Dervish ever entered the John W. Harshbarger Building, where Meixner worked.

The complaint also stated that Dervish was excluded from school property and that there were several reports of intimidation and threats against staff members who worked at Harshbarger.

Witnesses said Dervish was wearing a surgical mask and baseball cap as a disguise when he appeared outside Meixner’s office and shot the professor.

Dervish fled the scene but was arrested three hours later after Arizona state troopers stopped his car on a highway more than 120 miles northwest of Tucson.

Authorities said a loaded handgun was found in the vehicle and the ammunition matched shell casings found at the shooting scene.