Teen Pleads Guilty to Tessa Majors’ Violent Murder

Tessa Majors died from a stabbing in New York.
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A New York 16-year-old pleads guilty to his role in the 2019 robbery and murder of college freshman Tessa Majors.

A 16-year-old has pleaded guilty to the 2019 murder of Tessa Majors, according to The New York Times. 

From Virginia, Majors, 18, was a freshman at Barnard College who was found stabbed to death outside of Morningside Park in New York City in December of 2019. 

The young woman was heard screaming for help by a witness after running from her attackers, and collapsed on a corner outside of the park after climbing a set of stairs with multiple stab wounds, officials say. 

Police say Majors was found face-down by a security guard and was taken to a local hospital where she succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced dead. 

Luchiano Lewis, who was arrested two months after the murder after being accused of keeping Majors from escaping, gave an alleged account of the incident to Judge Robert Mandelbaum in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday, according to The New York Times.

Initially, the teen pleaded not guilty and was held without bail at a juvenile detention facility. He has now pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree robbery, according to the outlet.

According to Lewis, Rashaun Weaver and another middle school classmate came to Morningside Park that evening with the intention of committing a robbery.

Authorities say they believed Weaver’s family had initially shielded him from the police until a mark on his hand healed, describing the mark as consistent with a bite, according to the Times.

Per Lewis’ statement, Lewis followed along with some of Weaver’s other robberies prior to this incident with their other classmate — whose name is not being released but pleaded guilty to a robbery charge as a minor — only to back out, according to the Times. 

At the minor’s hearing, he said, "After that, we saw Tessa Majors walking on the stairs inside the park. Rashaun went up to her and said something to her and Tessa yelled for help,” according to CNN.

“Rashaun used the knife that I had handed to him to stab Tessa and I saw feathers coming out of her coat.”

The teen said in court that the three ran out of the park together, according to the outlet. 

Prosecutors said between Weaver and Lewis, one is responsible for stabbing Majors while the other put her in a "bear hug or headlock." There was DNA matching that of one defendant under one of Majors' fingernails, prosecutors said.

Lewis’ statement said that the trio had attacked a man a few weeks prior to their alleged robbery and murder of Majors.

Prosecutors said the classmates had considered several targets on that December evening before settling on Ms. Majors, according to the Times.

Lewis described the incident with Majors, including claiming that Weaver kicked Majors in the back and shouted for her to hand over her cellphone and money before “wrestling” the 18-year-old twice. 

The teen says that when he saw a witness, he encouraged Weaver to flee and was unaware of when Weaver had stabbed Majors, and that a knife had not been an agreed-upon portion of their plan.

Lewis says that he did not know that Majors had been stabbed to death until he saw her picture on the news.

Prosecutors said that Majors fought her attackers — including biting one of the teenagers on the hand and DNA matching that of one defendant was found under one of Majors' fingernails — with Lewis restraining her and Weaver allegedly stabbing her several times.

A medical examiner later found that she had been stabbed several times in the chest, including one stab wound to her heart, according to the outlet.

In his statement on Tuesday, however, Lewis never offered information about any physical contact between himself and the young woman.

Lewis and Weaver are being charged as adults and after the hearing on Tuesday, Weaver’s lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, said “This was not a premeditated murder,” reminding the reporters that the two had been 14 at the time of the murder.

In February 2020, Weaver pleaded not guilty, and he has a court date on October 18, where a trial date will be set.

Majors’ family previously described the Barnard College freshman as “talented, kind and beloved,” referring to her absence as “palpable and unrelenting.”

According to a local CBS affiliate, the Majors family released a recent statement that said, “We are aware of today’s proceeding involving the second guilty plea. We remain resolute in our belief that all parties who bear responsibility for Tess’s senseless death will be held accountable, and we are deeply grateful to the many people who continue to pursue that goal.

“In particular, we would like to thank the members of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the New York City Police Department for their tireless and thorough efforts. We have maintained confidence in their work from the beginning and appreciate their diligence and the compassion they have shown us.”

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