One of the teenagers involved in the stabbing death of Charlottesville native Tess Majors has pled guilty to first-degree robbery. Originally charged with second-degree felony murder as a juvenile, the unnamed 14-year-old accepted a plea deal with prosecutors in Family Court on Wednesday. He will be sentenced on June 15 to a limited-security facility for six to 18 months. Majors was fatally stabbed in December during an armed robbery near Barnard College of Columbia University, where she was an 18-year-old freshman.
On the afternoon of her murder, Majors was walking in Manhattan’s Morningside Park when multiple boys attempted to rob her. After resisting, Majors was repeatedly stabbed in the stomach, and the group of young men fled south through the park. She then approached an unoccupied Columbia University guard booth. When the guard returned from his rounds, he found her collapsed. She was later pronounced dead at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital.
In addition to the youth who appeared in Family Court on Wednesday, who is not named due to his status as a juvenile, two others — Luchiano Lewis and Rashaun Weaver — have been arrested in connection with the fatal stabbing. Lewis and Weaver, both of whom have cases still pending, are also 14 years old, but have been charged as adults in Manhattan Criminal Court with intentional second-degree murder. According to the New York Times, the young man who accepted Wednesday’s plea deal is accused not of stabbing Ms. Majors, but of taking part in the robbery that precipitated the killing, and thus was charged as a juvenile. He reportedly told police that Lewis placed Majors in a headlock and Weaver stabbed her at least four times after she refused to give them her cellphone.
Manhattan corporation counsel James Johnson provided press with a statement in response to this week’s guilty plea.
“This resolution is in the best interest of the community and for a youth who has had no prior contact with the juvenile justice system and was not the main actor in the murder,” said Johnson, who works for a division that prosecutes juvenile offenders. “The robbery and murder of Tessa Majors was a horrific crime. No family should have to endure such pain. We investigated the case involving [the teen] fairly based on the facts and with justice as our goal.”
Rachel Glantz, an attorney for the city, told reporters Wednesday that prosecutors considered the teenager’s age and his cooperation with investigators before pursuing lesser charges. His statements to the police could have been used against him at trial; the then-13-year-old confessed to providing Weaver with the murder weapon.
At the time of Majors’ death, Barnard College President Sian Leah Beilock expressed the community’s grief in a campus-wide letter.
“This is an unthinkable tragedy that has shaken us to our core. Please know that we are all grieving together…” Beilock wrote. “Tessa was just beginning her journey at Barnard and in life. We mourn this devastating murder of an extraordinary young woman and member of our community.”
District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance commented on the plea deal reached by prosecutors.
“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,” 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.”
Majors is the daughter of novelist Inman Majors, a professor of English at James Madison University; his website states that the Majors family continues to reside in Charlottesville. An attorney for the Majors family said that they intend on providing a victim impact statement at the June 15 sentencing.