Boy, 16, pleads guilty in death of college freshman Tessa Majors in NYC park claiming mugging gone wrong

Woman was found facedown on corner of park after having lost large amounts of blood

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 22 September 2021 21:14
<p>Tessa Majors was stabbed to death in New York City</p>

Tessa Majors was stabbed to death in New York City

A 16-year-old boy has pleaded guilty in the 2019 death of 18-year-old college freshman Tessa Majors in a New York City park in what he says was a mugging that went wrong.

Ms Majors, a student at Barnard College, was found stabbed to death in Morningside Park in northern Manhattan in December 2019.

Luchiano Lewis, 16, pleaded guilty to the killing on Tuesday and will be sentenced on 16 October after being charged as an adult with second-degree murder and first-degree robbery.

The murder charge carries a minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum of a life term.

Judge Robert Mandelbaum asked Luchiano if he was guilty. He said yes following a pause.

Prosecutors have said that Luchiano entered the park that night along with Rashaun Weaver and a middle school classmate looking for someone to rob. The middle schooler pleaded guilty to robbery as a minor while Rashaun pleaded not guilty in February 2020. His trial date is expected to be set during a court appearance on 18 October.

Rashaun’s lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman noted to reporters on Tuesday that both his client and Luchiano had been 14 years old when Ms Majors was killed.

“This was not a premeditated murder,” he said, according to The New York Times.

Family members of Ms Majors were in the courtroom on Tuesday.

“We remain resolute in our belief that all parties who bear responsibility for Tess’ senseless death will be held accountable, and we are deeply grateful to the many people who continue to pursue that goal,” the family said in a statement.

Prosecutors said the boys considered several targets before deciding to rob Ms Majors. She was a first-year student from Virginia who had just managed to book her first gig as a punk rock musician in the city.

Luchiano said that one man they had settled on robbing was too fast and that the boys stopped chasing him, leading them to try to mug Ms Majors.

The 16-year-old said Rashaun kicked Ms Majors in the back and yelled that she should give them her phone and money. He said Rashaun had wrestled with Ms Majors in two locations before Luchiano had seen a witness and told his classmates to flee the scene. He said he didn’t know where he was when Rashaun stabbed Ms Majors.

Luchiano said that using a knife had not been part of the plan, adding that he didn’t know that she had been stabbed or that she had been killed until the next day when he saw her death reported in the media.

Prosecutors have said that Ms Majors fought back and bit one of the teenagers’ hands, leading Luchiano to restrain her as Rashaun stabbed her several times.

As Luchiano spoke, he didn’t mention any physical contact between himself and Ms Majors.

A witness heard Ms Majors screaming for help. She broke free from her attackers and collapsed on a corner outside the park after climbing some stairs. She was found facedown after having lost a lot of blood. She died at a nearby hospital.

A medical examiner found that she had been stabbed several times in the chest, including once in the heart.

Police interviewed a classmate of Luchiano and Rashaun the next day. They told him that they had video footage of the crime as well as other evidence. The boy confessed and was sentenced to 18 months in juvenile detention.

Ms Majors’ family issued a statement criticising the sentence.

“There are no minor actors in the murder of Tess Majors,” they said.

Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr said the defendants' rights would be protected.

Luchiano was arrested two months after the murder took place. He was accused of having restrained Ms Majors to stop her from fleeing. At first, he pleaded not guilty and was subsequently ordered to be held without bail in juvenile detention.

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