Candlelight Vigil Held For Tessa Majors As Police Search For Her Killer

WCBS 880 Newsroom
December 15, 2019 - 7:10 pm
Tessa Majors vigil

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – A candlelight vigil was held Sunday evening in memory of Barnard freshman Tessa Majors, who was stabbed to death on Wednesday in Morningside Park.

The vigil was held around 4:30 p.m. by Barnard and Columbia college students, elected officials, community leaders and others at the park's grand staircase—near the spot at West 116th Street and Morningside Drive where the 18-year-old was killed. Hundreds of mourners with candles and cell phones lit up the steps.

Memorials have been growing in the area, with flowers, candles, college memorabilia and other items placed in remembrance of Majors at Barnard and Columbia colleges, as well as in the park.

"No more! No more!" attendees chanted Sunday night as a parade of people spoke.

Some called for an increase in police foot patrols at the park, which was notorious for violent crime in the 1980s and 1990s but has since grown significantly safer.

"We need officers, foot patrols walking the park," Assemblywoman Inez Dickens, adding that people have the right to feel safe at the park 24 hours a day. "We united will not stand for the atrocity that occured here a few days ago."

Councilman Mark Levine is asking for more lighting, more cameras and more patrols in the park, but he's pushing back against any notion that the so-called "bad old days" have returned.

"The numbers are quite clear. This park is safer by far than it was 10, 20, 30 years ago, even despite this horrible incident," Levine said.

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

A 14-year-old boy who was brought in for questioning on Friday was reportedly released early Saturday. Authorities aren’t yet charging him; it’s unclear if he’s still a suspect.

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.

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.

Tessa Majors
Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

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.”

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.

Safe to say I had the Raddest photographer for my senior pictures ----

A post shared by Tess (@tessmajors) on

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 were left at a makeshift campus memorial and her family said in a statement Friday 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.)