Tessa Majors

Tessa Majors Murder: Teen Gets Up to Life in Prison for Barnard Student Killing

Rashaun Weaver was 14 at the time the Barnard College student was killed; now 16, he apologized at his sentencing hearing, saying, "She deserved to have a long life"

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A teenage boy arrested in the 2019 deadly stabbing of Barnard College student Tessa Majors in a Manhattan park, a crime that rattled New York City residents for its apparent randomness, was sentenced Wednesday to 14 years to life in prison.

Rashaun Weaver, now 16, walked into court wearing a burgundy shirt and black tie. His hands were cuffed behind his back. Court officers denied his attorney's request to remove the handcuffs as the emotional hearing proceeded.

Weaver pleaded guilty to murder and robbery in the high-profile case last month. He was first arrested and charged in the case in February 2020.

Prosecutors alleged he was the one who fatally stabbed Majors. He was 14 years old at the time of Majors' death but was charged as an adult with second-degree murder and robbery because of the nature of the crime.

Majors was stabbed as she walked through Morningside Park early the evening of Dec. 11, 2019. She staggered up a flight of stairs to the street and collapsed in a crosswalk. Two other boys were also arrested in the case.

"Tess Majors cannot say how being murdered impacted her because she is dead. She is dead forever and is not coming back," the victim impact statement written by her family said as it was read aloud at Waver's sentencing.

"The only person who knows what it's like to be murdered early on the evening of Dec. 11, 2019, by Rashaun Weaver and his two cohorts is Tess Majors. And she is not here. She is not in this courtroom or attending a class or playing music," it read. "The family of Tess Majors believes that human life is sacred. The family of Tess Majors believes that murder of a human being, extinguishing another human being should never be normalized or rationalized. The pain is immeasurable and does not go away."

Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos pointed out ahead of the sentencing that Weaver attacked Majors once and she escaped. The prosecutor says Weaver attacked her two other times "in a prolonged attack" and only stopped because the two other boys involved in the case "pulled Mr. Weaver away."

"Fourteen years to life is a long time, but at the end of his sentence Rashaun Weaver goes home," Bogdanos said Wednesday. "Tess never will."

Bogdanos had said in court last month that Weaver admitted to a codefendant that he stabbed Majors because she "bit me." Bogdanos said Weaver's father is incarcerated and the boy's mother called him in jail after Majors' stabbing to say that Weaver had been bitten on the right hand.

Police used that evidence to positively identify him as a suspect in Majors' stabbing. Prosecutors say police leaked that information to reporters, which helped Weaver's mother hide him in various places across the city amid the search for the college student's killer. The boy was ultimately arrested on Valentine's Day in 2020.

The final of three teens arrested in the death of Barnard College student Tessa Majors. Myles Miller reports.

Weaver had robbed another person right before, by his own statement in court. As part of that written, prepared statement he delivered last month, Weaver admitted to that robbery and another one -- and intentionally causing the death of Majors.

The attack, two days before the start of 2019 final exams at the women's school, troubled city residents because of its proximity to campus and how random it appeared to be. Barnard is part of the Ivy League’s Columbia University.

Prosecutors sought to lay out a case for Weaver being a consistently violent person in the plea hearing. According to the prosecution, Weaver had been caught with a weapon and drugs while staying at a detention facility. He allegedly shattered a window and attacked counselors on 11 separate occasions there, prosecutors said.

The boy's attorney, high-powered defense lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman, told the court his client is redeemable. Weaver's family was inside the courtroom and yelled, "I love you!" as the teen was returned to a holding cell after the December hearing.

Lichtman reiterated that sentiment at Wednesday's sentencing hearing, saying, "all of the role models in his life have been to prison." He said that the prosecutor never met with Weaver and he never was given the chance to be seen as anything other than a murderer.

As for Weaver, he apologized "to the court and government, and your honor" and pledged to the judge that he would never be seen in his courtroom again.

"Mostly, I want to apologize to Tessa's family," Weaver said. "She deserved to have a long life."

Weaver told the judge in court that he will reform, and will never return to court again.

The young woman from Charlottesville, Virginia, played in a rock band and had told an editor from a newspaper internship in high school that she planned to take journalism classes in college. She was a freshman at Barnard when she died.

Weaver's co-defendant, Luchiano Lewis, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree robbery in court this past fall. The other, a 14-year-old boy whom News 4 is not identifying because of the juvenile charge, pleaded guilty in 2020.

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