What to Know
- A third teen suspected in the attack of Barnard College freshman Tessa Majors has turned himself in Wednesday morning, law enforcement officials say.
- Majors was fatally stabbed during a "robbery gone wrong" in Morningside Park on Dec. 10, police said
- A 13-year-old boy was previously charged with second-degree murder in the case
A third teen suspected in the attack of Barnard College freshman Tessa Majors turned himself in Wednesday morning, law enforcement officials say.
Luciano Lewis, 14, was charged as an adult with murder in the second degree and first and second-degree robbery, according to officials. Prosecutors alleged that Lewis prevented her from escaping as she called out for help.
Lewis pleaded not guilty on Wednesday. Lewis' attorney asked for supervised release arguing keeping him in custody would "disrupt his education." Ultimately, Lewis was remanded. His attorney had no comment on the charges.
“While a criminal process will never fully heal the unimaginable pain suffered by Tessa Majors’ family and friends, this indictment is a significant step forward on the path to justice,” District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance said in a statement. “We are committed to holding these young people accountable, and equally committed to a fair process which safeguards their rights. This is how we will achieve true justice for Tessa and her loved ones.”
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea called the slaying a "tragedy we all must live with," while crediting detectives' work in bringing in the suspects.
"Detectives, investigators and prosecutors, as well as a grand jury, worked deliberately to ensure that the evidence amassed supported the charges brought, and that now those who allegedly murdered Tessa Majors will be held to account," Shea said. "Nothing can bring her back."
The arrest comes just days after another 14-year-old boy was charged as an adult with murder in Majors' death. Rashaun Weaver was taken into custody in connection with Majors' death in Harlem on February 14, and he pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.
"We are confident that we have the person in custody who stabbed her, and that person will face justice in a court of law," Shea previously said after Weaver was taken into custody. "For that I am grateful, the city is grateful and the community around Morningside Park can take some comfort.”
“Sadly it cannot bring back this young woman, this student, this victim,” Shea added.
Majors was in Morningside Park just before 7 p.m. on Dec. 10 when, according to the NYPD, she was a victim of a “robbery gone wrong.” A 13-year-old boy has already been charged as a juvenile with second-degree murder in the case.
Weaver was charged with two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of first-degree robbery and three counts of second-degree robbery in connection with both Majors' death and with a separate robbery that took place inside Morningside Park on Dec. 7, according to a criminal complaint filed with the DA's office.
One of the murder counts represents "intentional murder," while the other represents a charge for "a murder caused in the course of a robbery," Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. noted.
NBC 4 New York has published the teens' names given the serious nature of the charges, including intentional murder, and because they are being charged as adults.
Detectives reviewed "a combination of many types of evidence ranging from scientific to digital to video to [Weaver's] own statements" prior to his arrest, Vance said.
According to Weaver's criminal complaint, surveillance video taken from Morningside Park on Dec. 11 shows Majors walking into Morningside Park around 6:40 p.m. on Dec. 11.
Weaver and two other people are seen on video entering the same side of the park through a different entrance, the complaint says. Weaver is wearing “a navy jacket with a horizontal white stripe and a red stripe across the chest” in the video, according to the complaint.
At first, video shows the three following a male pedestrian through the park, but a subsequent video shows that the male is no longer being followed, the complaint says.
Around 6:47 p.m., surveillance video shows Weaver and the two others “surrounding a female who was walking up the stairs,” but later shows them turn and walk back down the stairs after a different male pedestrian walks down the stairs, according to the complaint.
Less than two minutes later, a witness told police he heard a "male voice" near the stairs, the complaint says.
“Informant…. heard a male voice from the area just to the east of the landing, say in substance — run your s--t. Gimme your phone. You got some weed, gimme that too,” the complaint reads. “According to informant… after a few moments, he then heard a female voice scream, among other things, help me! I’m being robbed.”
A minute later, surveillance video shows the three struggling with Majors on the landing before Majors “break[s] free and slowly stagger[s] up the stairs,” the complaint says.
Majors’ blood was recovered from the landing and stairs, and DNA recovered from one of her fingernail clippings matched Weaver’s DNA profile, according to the complaint.
An autopsy found that Majors was stabbed in the torso several times; one of the stab wounds "pierced her heart," the complaint says.
The NYPD also obtained an audio recording in which Weaver admitted that he "hit [Majors] with a knife" inside the park after she refused to give up her phone, according to the complaint.
Weaver was arraigned on Saturday afternoon. He was remanded without bail and is expected to appear in court again on Feb. 19, Vance said. His attorney information wasn't immediately available.
Prosecutors say Weaver was also one of three people involved in a knifepoint iPhone robbery that took place inside Morningside Park four days before Majors' death, on Dec. 7.
Weaver was wearing the same jacket during that robbery, and Apple records reviewed by the NYPD showed that the stolen phone was logged into his iCloud account, according to the complaint.
Vance on Saturday called the arrest "a major milestone on the path to justice for Tessa Majors."
"Our journey to reach that milestone today was not a sprint, but rather it was a painstaking, deliberate and meticulous search for the truth," he said.
In a hearing for the 13-year-old who was previously arrested, police described how the group of teenagers put Majors in a chokehold and removed items from her pockets. The college freshman was able to fight back, biting one of her attackers on the finger, police said.
The 13-year-old said he watched his friend slash Majors with a knife, according to a detective's testimony.
Detectives say the 13-year-old teen watched as Majors was stabbed at the base of the steps, feathers coming out of her jacket as she struggled to fight back. She was stabbed multiple times and managed to stagger out of the park to find a security guard for help. Majors died at a hospital.
In a statement after her death, Majors' family said they want to know "what exactly happened to Tessa and who committed her murder. We believe, for the immediate safety of the community and the surrounding schools, that should be everyone’s top priority and we are grateful to the men and women of the NYPD for all of their efforts."
Police immediately stepped up security in the park area after Majors died. Crime statistics show more robberies were reported in Morningside Park this year than in any other park in the city.