Barnard College students shocked by murder of Tessa Majors near campus: "It could have been anyone"

Barnard College students shocked by murder
Barnard College students shocked by murder 03:58

Last Updated Dec 13, 2019 9:37 AM EST

Update: A 13-year-old boy will be charged in Tessa Majors' murder, CBS News has learned. 


New York City police are stepping up patrols after the brutal stabbing death of a freshman at Barnard, the women's college affiliated with Columbia University. Tessa Majors was murdered on Wednesday in a public park, next door to Columbia's campus in Manhattan.

The NYPD believes Majors may have been the victim of a robbery, CBS News correspondent Errol Barnett reports. Police had been interviewing two juveniles, but CBS News has learned they've been released.

The president of Barnard called the murder an unthinkable tragedy that has shaken the college to its core. The rattled community held a vigil for Majors Thursday night.

"This is just kind of a shock," said Caroline, a Barnard junior. "It could have been anyone. And it's just so unfortunate that it happened to someone so young."

Just before 7 p.m., police say Majors was stabbed several times by one to three people after a struggle in Morningside Park. She staggered up the park's steps onto the street where a school security guard eventually saw her and called 911. She later died at the hospital.

The park is a popular thoroughfare for many college students who live near or around campus. According to NYPD statistics, crime is up in the park, and the city's murder rate is also up, some 8%.

Asked why the murder rate is higher this year compared to last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "Look, it's a question we are asking ourselves strategically – not just, we feel it emotionally. Every single one of us gets the same reports every morning and they're not just numbers to us, they're human lives."

In the 1960s and 70s, crime was so rampant in Morningside Park, the Daily News said locals referred to it as "Muggingside Park." but in 2001, the New York Times declared Morningside had emerged "from its nightmare," writing: "children are in the playgrounds … and Columbia students routinely settle under trees to read."  

The community is now left to mourn a rising star. A Virginia native, Majors interned at a local newspaper in high school and was already making a name for herself at Barnard.

"She was really kind and really good at guitar," said Gabrielle, a fellow freshman.

A bass player and singer, Majors was part of two bands. One recently put out an album. A few months ago, Majors' father posted on Facebook celebrating her 18th birthday, writing: "I cant wait to see what the next 18 years have in store."

The NYPD says all hands are on deck to solve the crime.

"The idea that a college freshman at Barnard was murdered in cold blood is absolutely, not only painful to me as a parent, it's terrifying to think that that could happen anywhere," de Blasio said.

In April, three women were attacked near the park on separate occasions.