14-year-old boy pleads guilty to robbery in connection to Tessa Majors’ murder, prosecutors drop murder charge

First-year Barnard College student Tessa Majors was stabbed to death in Morningside Park near 116th St. in Manhattan in 2019.
First-year Barnard College student Tessa Majors was stabbed to death in Morningside Park near 116th St. in Manhattan in 2019. (Handout)

A 14-year-old boy jailed in connection to the brutal stabbing death of Barnard College student Tessa Majors pleaded guilty to robbery Wednesday, with prosecutors dropping murder charges against him.
At a hearing held in Manhattan Family Court, the boy, who was 13 at the time of the incident, admitted to participating in the robbery that led to Majors’ death and picking the murder weapon up off the ground shortly before it was used to kill her.
“In the park, one of my friends dropped a knife. I picked up the knife and handed it to Rashaun. After that, we saw Tessa Majors walking on the stairs inside the park. Rashaun went up to her and said something to her, and Tessa yelled for help. Rashaun used the knife that I had handed to him to stab Tessa, and I saw feathers coming out of her coat,” he said.
“Then I saw Rashaun take a plastic bag out of her pocket. Tessa went up the stairs towards Morningside Drive and Rashaun, Lucci and I followed her up to the platform. After that, Rashaun, Lucci and I ran out of the park together.”
The boy, whom the Daily News is not naming because of his age, appeared nervous as he entered his plea virtually from a juvenile facility — pulling at his hair and scratching his arms. He was due to go to trial for the killing in March, but it was adjourned on account of the coronavirus pandemic.
Majors, of Charlottesville, Va., was jogging down a set of steps in Morningside Park shortly before 7 p.m. on Dec. 11, 2019, when she was confronted by the teens.
Prosecutors for the city Law Department, who is handling the case because the boy is a minor, asked Manhattan Family Court Judge Carol Goldstein to impose a minimum sentence of six months in a limited security facility and a maximum of 18 months.
They said they dropped the charge of second-degree murder against the boy, who has been in custody for six months, as he was not the “main actor." At the plea hearing, Corporation Counsel Rachel Glantz consented he be sentenced to time served at his June 15 disposition.
“This resolution is in the best interest of the community and for a youth who has had no prior contact with the juvenile justice system and was not the main actor in the murder," James E. Johnson, NYC Corporation Counsel, said in a statement.
A statement from the Legal Aid Society, who represents the boy, said he will likely feel the ramifications of his involvement for the rest of his life.
“Tessa Majors’s death was tragic. It caused incalculable pain to her loved ones and affected our entire city. This plea to robbery in the first degree is consistent with our client’s limited role in this tragic event. He did not touch Ms. Majors or take any of her property. Furthermore, no DNA evidence exists linking him to the events,” the statement reads.
"He will face its repercussions for a long time, likely the rest of his life. This plea clears a path for him and his family to move forward with their lives. His acceptance of responsibility is an important first step; it provides an opportunity for this now-14-year-old to achieve a successful future.”
During an interrogation with detectives from Manhattan North’s Homicide squad following his arrest, the 5-foot-5 suspect admitted to being present for the killing but said he played no role in it.
"He watched his friend grab the victim, put her in a chokehold and remove items from her pocket,” Detective Vincent Signoretti said during a hearing in December.

“He made a slashing, stabbing motion toward the victim. He saw feathers come out of her jacket and then all three of them fled the park together.”

The young woman reportedly tried to get help, but collapsed by a park security booth at the top of the stairs on W. 116th St. near Morningside Drive.

The two 14-year-olds arrested for Majors’ killing, Weaver and Luciano Lewis, were charged as adults with second-degree murder in February. Weaver’s DNA was discovered beneath Majors’ fingernails, authorities said.

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