The final moments of a Barnard College student’s life were captured on grainy surveillance footage as she was stabbed to death last week by a group of teens in a robbery gone wrong, according to testimony in court.
Tessa Majors, 18, is seen in the footage being approached by three teens as she made her way through Morningside Park on the evening of Dec. 11, according to The New York Post.
During a hearing Tuesday for a 13-year-old suspect who has been charged as a juvenile in connection to the slaying, Detective Wilfredo Acevedo testified that the “pixelated video” shows “a little scuffle at the bottom of the steps, and poking motions towards the victim.”
Investigators don’t believe the 13-year-old in custody stabbed Majors but said he looked on as two other suspects fatally wounded Majors in the torso, WNBC reports.
“He heard Ms. Majors yell for help and refuse to get robbed,” Acevedo testified, according to The Post. “She was just refusing to give up her property.”
According to Acevedo, the 13-year-old told investigators he saw one of the suspects reach into the victim’s pocket and “remove something” that looked like a plastic bag before Majors was killed. He also told police he had picked up a red handled knife at some point after it was dropped and handed it to one of the other suspects.
The 13-year-old’s attorney has argued that the video shows her client standing away from Majors and doesn’t show him participating in the robbery or the stabbing.
“The evidence here is the opposite,” Legal Aid attorney Hannah Kaplan said, according to NBC News. “The only testimony connecting my client to anything related to Miss Majors’ death and alleged robbery is that at some point my client picked up a knife and handed it to someone. That is refuted by the description of the surveillance video.”
Assistant Corporation Counsel Rachel Glantz argued, however, that the 13-year-old implicated himself in the crime during his interview with investigators. He allegedly told police that he and his friends had gone to the park to commit a robbery and first followed a white male, before setting their sights on Majors, the prosecutor said.
“Then he told detectives that he later picked up a knife and handed it to another individual,” Glantz said. “It is reasonable to infer that when the knife was picked up that it would be used in the course of a robbery.”
Judge Carol Goldstein ruled that there was probable cause to continue with the felony murder and robbery charges against the teen and ordered him to be detained until the next hearing scheduled for Jan. 2.
In a statement to the media, Kaplan asked that the 13-year-old be “presumed innocent” as the case proceeds.
“History is full of examples of high profile cases tried in the media, rushing law enforcement to a wrongful arrest and conviction,” she said, also noting that the suspect had no prior juvenile record.
Investigators continue to try to determine the other teens involved in the slaying. A 14-year-old suspect was expected to arrive at the police station Monday with his attorney to talk with investigators, but he jumped out of a car and fled, sources told WNBC.
Police continue to search for the teen, who has not been found.
In the days since the slaying, the NYPD has increased patrols in the area.
"The idea that a college freshman at Barnard was murdered in cold blood is absolutely not only painful to me as a parent, it's terrifying to think that that could happen anywhere," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the news conference, according to CNN.
Columbia University, which is located near the park and is affiliated with Barnard College, also announced Tuesday that it had increased security by staffing guard booths outside the park on a 24/7 basis. The hours for an evening shuttle will also be extended, WNBC reports.
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