The news of the Dec. 11 stabbing death of 18-year-old Barnard College student Tessa Majors began to circulate quickly and as the days passed, questions surrounding the murder became plentiful.
Majors was walking through Harlem’s Morningside Park, just a few blocks away from her school’s campus, when she was attacked in a robbery-gone-wrong by three teens, one 13-year-old and two 14-year-olds. Majors was stabbed by one of the teens during the attack. She then staggered up a flight of stairs to Morningside Drive, before collapsing at a security booth near the campus, CNN reported. The security officer called 911 and Majors was transported to St. Luke’s hospital where she succumbed to her injuries, according to a police report.
The following day, on Dec. 12, police apprehended the 13-year-old suspect who was believed to be in connection with the killing. A CBS2 source said Zyairr Davis was taken into custody in the lobby of a building at Manhattan Avenue and 119th Street, near where the killing took place. Davis was reportedly wearing the same clothes that matched the description of the clothing associated with Majors’ attacker. The young teen was charged with murder and held without bail.
Davis was taken in for questioning, which received criticism because the 13-year-old was accompanied by his uncle and legal guardian, but no lawyer was present. The teen is being represented by Hannah Kaplan of The Legal Aid Society, who said that her client’s confession – which was made overnight – was led by an officer who “yelled at him.” Kaplan also said that Davis was unaware of the other two boys’ intentions to rob Majors and he communicated that information with the police “as much 10 times during his interview.”
A second suspect – one of the 14-year-olds – turned himself in for questioning with his mother and an attorney on Dec. 13. He was released several hours later and the charges against him were dropped. The NYPD refused to discuss why the teen was not charged.
Reports surfaced on Dec. 15 that Sergeants Benevolent Association president Ed Mullins said in an interview that Majors was in Morningside Park to “buy marijuana.”
“And you think about that, we don’t enforce marijuana laws anymore. We’re basically hands-off on the enforcement of marijuana,” Mullins said. “So here we have a student murdered by a 13-year-old and we have a common denominator of marijuana. You know, my question to the people of New York City is, ‘Why is this happening?’” His comments were met with backlash, especially from the victim’s family.
“The remarks by Sergeants Benevolent Association president Ed Mullins we find deeply inappropriate, as they intentionally or unintentionally direct blame onto Tess, a young woman, for her own murder,” the family said in a statement. “We would ask Mr. Mullins not to engage in such irresponsible public speculation, just as the NYPD asked our family not to comment as it conducts the investigation.”
Two days later, on Dec. 16, the third teen allegedly bolted out of a car while being driven to the police station to turn himself in. The unnamed teen fled and reports eventually speculated that he may have gone down South with relatives, according to The New York Post.
The NYPD released photos of the 14-year-old teen on Dec. 20, in an effort to obtain information on his whereabouts. “The New York City Police Department requests assistance from the public in locating this individual. All calls are kept strictly confidential,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison tweeted alongside the images.
On Dec. 20, a Connecticut man named was arrested for threatening to kill Black people in Harlem as a means of seeking retaliation for Majors’ murder. “I do believe that’s black kids murdered her though,” Spring wrote on Reddit according to his arrest warrant. “That’s the real story. Why don’t you pay attention to that. A black kid 13/14 year old stabbed a white gurl (sic) to death for nothing.” The affidavit also quoted him saying, “Time to exterminate the real problem. Now he was freed by family/lawyer and let loose in HARLEM! I’m going to search for him myself tonight. Armed and read to fire. Then the parents are next.” He was released on $5,000 bond.
An article via The Gothamist surfaced days later, on Dec. 22, bringing attention to one of the detectives in the case and accusations made against him of withholding exculpatory evidence and making false accusations. The publication reported that detective Wilfredo Acevedo, the same officer who interviewed 13-year-old Davis without an attorney present, has been sued multiple times for retaining evidence. Some of the lawsuits are ongoing.
The NYPD has denied those allegations, saying in part, “The calculated, personal attacks against a member of the investigative team working to solve the murder of Tessa Majors is an obvious and unethical effort to make prejudicial statements outside the courtroom to effect a jury pool.”
The third teen, who had been on the run for 15 days, was located and taken into custody by NYPD in the Bronx on Thursday. “We have located this individual. Thank you to everyone who reached out with information,” Harrison tweeted.
“This is an active and ongoing investigation,” the NYPD said.