In New York state, minors of his age can be tried in adult court for certain crimes, but felony murder is not included on that list.
Tessa Majors, an 18-year-old from Charlottesville, was attacked in a park near campus Wednesday evening, police said.
Rodney Harrison, chief of detectives for the New York City Police Department, said Thursday that it appeared that one to three people were involved in the armed robbery and that during the struggle, one of them pulled out a knife and stabbed Majors several times. Majors was able to stagger up stairs leading out of Morningside Park. A campus security officer called 911, but she was pronounced dead at a hospital that night.
“We are devastated by the senseless loss of our beautiful and talented Tess,” the Majors family said in a written statement Friday. “We are thankful for the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from across the country. We would also like to express our appreciation for the efforts of the men and women of the NYPD, who continue to work diligently on this case.”
A memorial of flowers rose on the Barnard campus as people mourned the student’s death, and New York’s mayor vowed increased police patrols near the campuses of Barnard and Columbia University. The schools are affiliated.
Majors was a musician, a singer and songwriter, and an aspiring journalist, according to friends and family. Her band had just released an album and had played its first New York gig.
In Charlottesville, she was honored for her academics at St. Anne’s-Belfield School. In addition to performing music, she led the creative writing club, ran cross-country and volunteered on political campaigns. David Lourie, the head of school, called her “a shining light” in the community. Majors was “a good friend, respected classmate, trusted teammate, and creative and passionate musician,” he said in a written statement. “Her death is an immeasurable loss.”
At a campus gathering Thursday evening, Barnard College President Sian Leah Beilock said Majors had been described as “a blazing talent,” and said the school would continue to honor her, mourn her and celebrate her life. She called on students at the school to support one another.
“Some of you may be scared,” she said. “Our faith in the safety of our community and our city has been brutally violated. The unthinkable has happened in a park so many of us have spent time in and valued as a place of refuge and peace.”
She said that she and Columbia University’s president, Lee Bollinger, were committed to doing everything they could to restore a sense of safety.
Bollinger told the gathering that the attacks had left him unmoored for several reasons: because Majors was one of the youngest members of the community; because as a parent and grandparent he could readily imagine the pain her family is feeling; and because the tragedy had happened only a few yards in front of the home where he and his wife live, “so we will forever have the searing reality of that physical proximity.”
Bollinger said: “All of the horror that encompasses this death should not and cannot detract from the appreciation of Tess Majors, the person. Tess must have been extraordinary. I am slowly beginning to get a glimpse of a brilliant young individual.
“Tess will be in my mind, and our collective minds, for a long time to come.”