A 14-year-old suspect was arrested in relation to the death of Barnard first-year Tessa Majors last night at 10:30 p.m., according to a press briefing by the New York Police Department and Manhattan District Attorney’s Office following an indictment by a grand jury. Authorities say they are confident he was the one who stabbed and killed Majors.
The youth, whose name the Spectator will not be releasing due to his age, was charged with two counts of murder in the second degree and several counts of robbery. He will be tried as an adult, as is required under law.
The evidence was presented to the grand jury over the course of several weeks and included a number of witnesses and evidence exhibits as well as the suspect’s own statements. According to the criminal complaint, a copy of which was obtained by the Spectator, a separate robbery in Morningside Park happened a few days before Majors’ death, during which the suspect and two others robbed an iPhone from someone identified as “Informant #1.” The phone was later used to log into the suspect’s iCloud account. The complaint details that Majors’ robbery was also over a phone and at knifepoint.
Informant #1 later identified the 14-year-old suspect on video from his jacket, according to the complaint. The same jacket worn by the suspect the night of the robbery was also worn by one of the youths struggling with Majors, which was caught on video. The suspect’s DNA was also found under Majors’ fingernails, the complaint said.
The arrest of the suspect comes amid complaints that the investigation was not following proper due process and has drawn comparisons to the “Exonerated Five” case. In that case—which was fraught with racial bias—five black teenagers from Harlem, also known as the “Central Park Five,” were wrongfully convicted of the rape of a white woman in Central Park.
In December, a 13-year-old suspect was found likely to have participated in the crime, though he did not participate in the robbery or murder. His case, a charge of felony murder, is being pursued in the New York County Family Court, while the 14-year-old will have his case brought before the youth part of the criminal courts because of his intentional murder charge.
Acknowledging the age of the suspect, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said that careful consideration was being made to alleviate concerns about the process.
“We will be very careful to safeguard all the rights that he has as we go forward with this case. ... I want New Yorkers to know that we are recommitting today to fairness in this case because only a fair process will result in true justice for Tessa Majors,” he said.
The defense attorney who represented the child, Elsie Chandler of Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem, was unable to be reached for comment by publication.
In the press briefing, authorities said the unusually long time to indict, two months, was taken deliberately to ensure the investigation was “careful, thoughtful, … and extremely methodical.”
Authorities stated that an “active investigation in terms of other suspects” is ongoing and the suspect’s next court date is Feb. 19.