Ex-Student from University of Arizona Jailed for Murdering Professor

The former University of Arizona graduate student, who fatally shot the department head after being expelled from the graduate program, was sentenced last week to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Murad Dervish, 48, was convicted in May by a Pima County jury of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Hydrology Professor Thomas Meixner near his campus office on October 5, 2022.

The 52-year-old Meixner, who headed up the University of Arizona’s Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences Department, was shot 11 times with a 9 mm handgun Dervish purchased a month before the shooting.

Dervish was also found guilty of five other felony charges, including aggravated assault for wounding a building manager during the shooting.

Dervish was pursuing a master’s degree in atmospheric sciences when, in January 2022, he was banned from campus and subsequently expelled for harassing and threatening faculty after he received a bad grade.

Witnesses testified in the trial that when Dervish showed up on campus to kill Meixner, he wore a surgical mask and ball cap to avoid being recognized. A month after he was barred from campus, university staff received a flyer with a picture of Dervish informing them to call 911 if he was ever seen in or near the John W. Harshbarger Building, where the Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences Department is located.

Following the murder, Dervish fled the city. He was arrested about three hours later by Arizona state troopers who pulled over his vehicle on the highway over 120 miles away from Tucson.

The loaded handgun was found in Dervish’s vehicle. The ammunition matched shell casings found at the crime scene.

Following Dervish’s sentencing, Professor Meixner’s widow Kathleen said that while Dervish would spend the rest of his life behind bars, the sentence would never bring her husband back.

She said the university community “lost a treasured professor” and “a brilliant scientist,” and her sons would “never see their father again in this life.”