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13-Year-Old Boy Confesses In Stabbing Death Of Barnard Student Tessa Majors

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A 13-year-old boy charged in the murder of Barnard College faced a judge Friday.

Tessa Majors, 18, was stabbed to death in Morningside Park.

A second juvenile is being questioned by police while authorities search for a third.

The 13-year-old suspect appeared in Manhattan family court Friday afternoon, his aunt and uncle by his side. He sat quietly biting his lip while lawyers argued his case.

Tessa Majors
Tessa Majors (credit: Instagram/TessMajors)

The brutal attack took place Wednesday evening in Morningside Park. Majors was stabbed multiple times during an attempted robbery. She made her way up the steps of the park to a nearby Columbia University security guard, but it was too late.

Police found the 13-year-old while canvassing the area near Morningside Park. The boy was caught in the lobby of a building at Manhattan Avenue and 119th Street at around 4:20 p.m. Thursday. He was wearing clothes that matched the description of the suspect, sources said. Police arrested him for criminal trespass and during a search found he was carrying a knife.

He was brought to the precinct on trespassing and weapons charges and then confessed to the murder, sources told CBS2. He told investigators he and two friends tried to rob Majors and they stabbed her, sources said.

The arresting detective said in court, who said the trio followed a man into the park but then decided not to rob him. Then the 13-year-old said he watched his two friends choke and stab Tessa, take items from her pockets, and then all three ran off. The 13-year-old said one of his friends told him Tessa bit his finger, fighting back.

The suspect spoke in the presence of his uncle, as is required when interviewing a juvenile, and the suspect waived his right to remain silent, sources said.

The 13-year-old faces second degree murder, robbery and weapons charges.

The suspect left the 26th precinct covered in a jacket, his identity protected because of his age.

Majors, originally from Virginia, moved to New York in the fall to attend Barnard College, a part of Columbia University. She was in a band and had an interest in journalism.

"We are devastated by the senseless loss of our beautiful and talented Tess. We are thankful for the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from across the country. We would also like to express our appreciation for the efforts of the men and women of the NYPD, who continue to work diligently on this case," the Majors family said in a statement.

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said on Twitter detectives were "making significant progress, and we will have major updates to announce very soon."

The campus, located just blocks from where the 18-year-old freshman was killed, remains in shock.

"We've lost somebody who is really special to us, and no arrest of one person or multiple people is going to do that, but it might help us sleep better at night," said Eric, a Columbia student.

"I think it's really sad that it's such a young man because I think you can see that," Caitlin Walsh said. "I was really, really scared on Wednesday night, Thursday and even today just walking alone and being outside alone. So it's better to know they have something."

"That's just tragic. I mean there's no justice here," Eric said.

"I know I will definitely think twice about walking through this park, definitely not at night," said Columbia student Brian Zaros.

This isn't the first time the area has seen violent attacks. There have been nearly two dozen incidents in the park since October 2018, including many robberies and one felony assault.

Back in April, police said a group of teens between the ages of 12-15 attacked three women on three separate occasions near the park.

Many Harlem residents had voiced complaints in the past about the safety of the park. On Friday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer addressed those concerns.

"The police department is going to have a lot more coverage and the Parks Department is putting in their PEP officers. But it's always, what the challenging part is, you always wanted to unite Columbia and Harlem. That's what we wanted Morningside Park to be, and we'll just have to work to make sure that continues to be a fact," Brewer said.

She toured the park and said lighting and camera experts will also map the area in the near future to decide what added security features will be made.

The school said counseling services will be available.

  • Furman Counseling Center: 100 Hewitt Hall, (212) 854-2092
  • Dean of Studies Office: 105 Milbank Hall, (212) 854-2024
  • After-hours psychological emergency line: (855) 622-1903
  • International SOS for students who are abroad: +1-215-942-8478

NYPD Crime Stoppers is offering a $2,500 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the investigation. Anyone with information about the deadly stabbing is asked to call its hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or 1-888-57-PISTA (74782) for Spanish. You can also submit a tip via the Crime Stoppers website, by tweeting @NYPDTips or by texting 274637.

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