Murder in Morningside: Detectives arrest 13-year-old boy for slaying college student

Tessa Majors (Photo via Instagram/tessmajors)

Multiple outlets have reported that detectives are charging a 13-year-old boy in connection with the violent stabbing of Tessa Majors, an 18-year-old Barnard College student in Manhattan’s Morningside Park, on Wednesday.

According to WABC-TV, the youth — who has not been publicly identified — is expected to be charged with murder, robbery and weapons possession. Cops are still searching for two additional suspects.

This is a breaking story; check with amNewYork later for further details.

* * *


Tessa Majors, 18, was stabbed at 6:56 p.m. inside the park, police officials said. She was spotted by a campus security officer and rushed to Mount Sinai/St. Luke’s Hospital, but could not be saved, Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison said Thursday.

In the wake of the horrific killing, as students at Barnard College and the surrounding community looked to mourn in peace for Majors, some residents claimed that concerns about safety in the park are nothing new.

Others looked back on other high-profile wrongful convictions that have taken place amid public pressure for justice following major crimes and hoped law enforcement would move forward with caution.

Inside the case

Harrison pointed out Thursday that the NYPD is seeking up to three suspects connected to the murder. Detectives are looking at security video from around Morningside Park, while also examining a blood trail that led to the nearby Grant Houses.

“We have a high level of confidence that an arrest will be made and they will be prosecuted,” said Harrison, though he said because the investigation was in early stages, he couldn’t provide more information at this time.

Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison holds up wanted poster for information on murder of Barnard student, flanked by Commissioner Dermot Shea. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed outrage at this latest murder. With weeks left in 2019, the homicide rate is so far up 8 percent this year.

“A freshman at Barnard, murdered in cold blood, is just not only painful to me as a parent, it’s terrifying that it can happen anywhere,” said de Blasio, who noted that he had spoken to Barnard College President Sian Leah Beilock, president of Barnard. He offered increased police presence near the campus and sent mental health professionals.

Commissioner Dermot Shea added that the NYPD is also examining whether the homicide is connected to a recent robbery pattern in the area. Detectives in the 26th Precinct arrested two juveniles, ages 14 and 16, three weeks ago for the pattern.

“We are going to take a look at everything going on,” Commissioner Shea said. “Yes, we will in increase police presence and work on effective deployment with increased patrols, but I wish we could’ve done more to prevent this one.

Coping with tragedy

NYPD officials were still combing the crime scene near Morningside Park Thursday morning as students and neighbors grappled with the tragedy.

Some sought to mourn in peace for Majors, while other residents cited concerns about safety in the park.

Others looked back on other high-profile wrongful convictions that have taken place amid public pressure for justice following major crimes and hoped law enforcement would move forward with caution.

Majors was walking through the park at about 5:30 p.m. when she was assaulted in an apparent robbery. She was able to make it to security guard post where she was rushed to the hospital and died of her injuries, authorities say.

A large police investigation of the Morningside Park saw the area closed throughout Thursday. (Photo by Mark Hallum)


“My daughter is 15, it could have easily been her. It is personal – it’s so needless,” Rachel, an architect who lives in the area, said. “We just seem unable to control this park.”

According to Rachel, crime in the park has been a growing concern of hers for some time amid rumors of other stabbings in the area.

“Is everybody hampered by the rules? Because it seems like there should be a sh-t-load of people in that park every 20 feet for the next three years to clean it out during 5:30 and 8:30,” Rachel said. “I was five blocks away walking my dog from where she got killed.”

John Phelan, a nearby resident, stopped by Morningside Drive and 116th Street to lay flowers at the small shrine growing in Majors’ memory. He expressed sympathy for the family while hoping for caution in seeking a conviction.

“My biggest concern is having watched something like the Central Park Five, I’m worried that the community is going to want to seek some kind of answer too quickly,” Phelan said. “Part of me totally reaches out to the family but the other part of me is hoping that we don’t get carried away.”

Even the General Counsel’s Office of the Police Benevolent Association made reference in a tweet Thursday to a high profile murder which ended in the wrongful conviction of a Queens man.

Brian Watkins, 22, was visiting the city from Utah with his family in 1990 when he was stabbed to death in a mugging in a Manhattan subway station.

As pressure mounted to see a conviction, Bayside, Queens native Johnny Hincapie was arrested and served 25 years in prison before his conviction was overturned in 2015.

Jesse Zhang, a student at Barnard, said she knew Majors through orientation at the school.

“There are so many factors in the story that are frustrating. It makes me angry and sad,” Zhang said. “It almost feels like privilege to be stressed right now because of finals week. It’s really heart breaking knowing that she’s supposed to be in the library with us.”

Tackling the murder spike

However, with the murder on the rise, police are looking for new strategies to stop the growing murder trend.

“The question we are asking ourselves strategically is that we are dealing with human lives, there has been an ever changing pattern,” de Blasio said. “In the six years of us being together and 25 years of overall progress, we find the basic strategies make sense. Yes, this is a troubling increase and it is so much smaller than decade ago – we must address this head on, figure out a pattern.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed shock over the murder of a Barnard College freshman last night. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

He added that a major challenge on the increase in homicides has been a focus on gang violence and keeping young people from joining gangs. He said that while overall crime is down, the increase in homicides is a “new challenge.”

Harrison emphasized that they are seeking help from the public and witnesses who may have seen something unusual that night.

Anyone with information in regard to this murder may call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or on Twitter @NYPDTips.