Instead of notes of congratulations on graduation, children and parents at a Bronx school laid out candles and flowers Thursday morning for a student fatally stabbed outside of school as his alleged killer, also a young teen, was charged in his murder.
It was supposed to be a joyous graduation day at the Joseph Wade Middle School, but the family of 14-year-old Timothy Crump was making funeral arrangements as classmate Noel Estevez stood before a judge to face murder and manslaughter charges.
"To hear he was gonna graduate, your heart breaks," said Rose Vargas, a parent at the school. "It's unbelievable."
Estevez, 14, was charged as an adult with second-degree murder and manslaughter. His lawyer told reporters that Estevez was also a victim and had been bullied for months by Crump.
"There was a history of bullying by the deceased and friends of his," said defense attorney Eric Poulos. "My client and his mother sought various ways, through the school system, through the police department, to stop this. No one would help."
Police say Crump was stabbed multiple times outside of the Morris Heights school shortly after dismissal around 3 p.m. He was taken to Bronx Lebanon Hospital in critical condition and later died, police said. A knife was recovered at the scene, and Estevez was taken into police custody.
Law enforcement sources say Estevez had mental health problems and he told police that he felt bullied and threatened by Crump, who was allegedly part of a group of kids who routinely harassed him. The teens would go to Estevez's apartment to urinate on his front door and threatened to kill him and his family, his attorney said.
Students who witnessed the stabbing say it appears to have stemmed from a fistfight that began outside the school.
"The boy came out of the school, pulled out a knife and just started stabbing," said one student. "The [victim] tried to run but by the time he got there, he was bleeding. He tried to run back, and that's when he fell to the floor."
Crump was bleeding profusely when he collapsed, and a security guard rushed over to aid him, according to the student.
Estevez's lawyer said it was his first time back to class in months after trying to transfer schools and avoid his alleged tormentors.
"They were after him for three months," said Poulos. "They couldn't find him because he stayed behind closed doors. He came out of closed doors and they sicced on him."
One teacher told NBC 4 New York Estevez is a good person.
"He is a good kid as far as I'm concerned," the teacher said. "I'm trying to find out what really happened."