Teen pleads guilty in killing of college student in NYC park
NEW YORK (AP) — One of two teens charged as adults in the fatal stabbing of a college student in a New York City park pleaded guilty Tuesday to murder and robbery charges.
Luchiano Lewis was accused of holding Barnard College freshman Tessa Majors in a headlock and preventing her from escaping while another 14-year-old knifed her in Manhattan’s Morningside Park in December 2019.
Lewis, now 16, downplayed his role in the attack in court Tuesday, saying he didn’t know Majors “had been stabbed, let alone killed” until the next day, when he heard someone was killed in the park and read a news story about it.
Lewis and the suspected stabber, Rashaun Weaver, were charged as adults.
A boy who was 13 at the time was tried as a juvenile and sentenced last year to 18 months in a juvenile detention center.
Lewis is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 14 before Judge Robert Mandelbaum. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Weaver, who has pleaded not guilty to murder and robbery charges, is due back in court on Oct. 18.
Weaver’s lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, said he heard Lewis give his statement in court and said it “was obviously written out for him.”
“Having previously read press reports today that he is now cooperating with the state, I wasn’t surprised that he minimized his involvement and blamed nearly everything on Rashaun and his other codefendant,” Lichtman said.
In a statement, Majors’ family said, “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.”
Majors, 18, was stabbed during an attempted robbery as she walked in the early evening through the park near Barnard’s campus. She staggered up a flight of stairs to street level and collapsed.
Lewis said in court that the plan was to rob her of Majors cell phone and run to a bus stop, but that Weaver ran up to her, kicked her hard in the back and screamed “give me your money, run your pockets, I’m not playing.”
Lewis said that Majors asked Weaver, “Are you seriously trying to rob me?” and the two started tussling. Majors tried to run away, up the stairs, but the boy who was 13 at the time ran and kicked her to the ground, Lewis said.
A police detective testified at a previous proceeding that the youngest of the three said in an interview that he saw one of the 14-year-old boys grabbing Majors from behind while the other stabbed her, causing feathers to billow from her jacket.
Lewis said in court that he didn’t know where in the park he was when Weaver stabbed Majors, but noted that he too saw feathers coming out of her jacket.
He said the three then fled from the park and that he asked Weaver what he’d taken from Majors, to which Weaver kept replying, “nothing.” Weaver then pulled up his hand and said that Majors had bit him, Lewis said.
Majors, from Charlottesville, Virginia, played in a rock band and aspired to study journalism. Her death drew national attention and condemnation from city leaders. Mayor Bill de Blasio called it an “unacceptable reality.”
The Associated Press identified Lewis and Weaver because of the seriousness of the crime and because they were charged as adults. The juvenile suspect was not identified in court papers.
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