Candlelight vigil held for Tessa Majors as police continue search for her killer

1010 WINS Newsroom
December 15, 2019 - 7:27 pm
A vigil for Tessa Majors

Tessa Majors/Instagram/1010 WINS


NEW YORK (1010 WINS) – A candlelight vigil was held Sunday evening in memory of Barnard freshman Tessa Majors, who was stabbed to death during a robbery Wednesday in Morningside Park.

The vigil was held by Barnard and Columbia college students, elected officials, community leaders and others near the spot at West 116th Street and Morningside Drive where the 18-year-old was killed.

The speakers included Lisa Carnoy, co-chair of the Board of Trustees at Columbia University.

"All of the horror that encompasses this death should not and cannot detract from the appreciation of Tessa Majors the person. Tessa must have been extraordinary," Carnoy said. 

Philip didn't know Majors, but he lives right across the street from where she died.

"I’m heartbroken. I mean I've got two daughters," he said. "I mean I’ve walked through this parka a million—I walked through this park that day."

Memorials to Majors have been growing in the area, with flowers, candles, college memorabilia and other items seen in the area of Barnard and Columbia.

A 13-year-old boy is still being held in juvenile detention on felony murder and other charges in connection with Majors’ death after he was arrested Friday. Police say he implicated two other teens from his middle school in the crime.

A 14-year-old who was brought in for questioning Friday was released early Saturday. Authorities declined to charge him at this time, and it’s unclear if he remains a suspect in the case.

Police said they’re still searching for a third teenager suspected of being the one who stabbed Majors to death with a knife during a robbery Wednesday night.

Vigil for Tessa Majors
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The attackers are all believed to attend a middle school near the park, police have said. NYPD divers were searching a pond in the park on Saturday.

At Friday's hearing for the 13-year-old, Detective Vincent Signoretti testified that the boy said his two friends grabbed Majors, put her in a chokehold and robbed her. The detective testified that the teen said he did not stab Majors — the boy watched his friend slash her with a knife and saw feathers flying out from her coat's stuffing.

The teen's lawyer, Hannah Kaplan of the Legal Aid Society, said police didn't have evidence beyond the statement from her client, who she said hadn't been arrested before.

“There is no allegation my client touched the complainant in this case,” Kaplan said. “He was merely present when this took place.”

Tessa Majors memorial
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The crime has caused alarm in the Columbia and Barnard communities. At least one Columbia student, Yao Yu, says he was recently mugged at knifepoint by three teens in the same spot in Morningside Park.

Yu, an international student from China, says he had only been in the city a few days when he was robbed at knifepoint near 116th Street and Morningside Drive.

“They asked me where I was from and if I had any money. At first, I didn’t think they were threatening me, so I told them I didn’t have any money. Then, they showed me an open knife, so I gave them my wallet and they took my money,” Yu told the New York Post Friday.

Tessa Majors

At a makeshift memorial where Majors was killed, a 16-year-old girl named Lia told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria that she has lived her whole life on Morningside Drive and that she finds the killing hard to believe.

“I’ve played soccer down there. I’ve searched for Easter eggs down there. I’ve hung out with my friends down there,” she said.

“I think I’ll go back and do the same things, but it will be slightly different,” she said. “I’ll look over my shoulder; check the time; remember what happened.”

Majors, from Charlottesville, Virginia, played in a rock band in New York and had told an editor from a newspaper internship in high school that she planned to take journalism classes in college.

Flowers and candles are being left at a makeshift campus memorial and her family said in a statement that they “are devastated by the senseless loss of our beautiful and talented Tess."

Majors was walking in Morningside Park, which is located down a staircase from street level, just before 7 p.m. Wednesday when she was confronted and stabbed during a struggle, Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison said.

She staggered up the stairway to a nearby street, where she was spotted by a campus security guard who called 911, Harrison said. Majors died at a hospital.

Investigators recovered a knife Thursday but were not certain whether it was connected to Majors’ death. Police have since increased patrols around the park and campus, which is part of the Ivy League’s Columbia University.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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