A 14-year-old boy pleaded guilty to robbery in the first degree on Wednesday in the case of Tessa Majors, the 18-year-old Barnard College student who was stabbed to death in a New York City park last December. The teen will be sentenced on June 15.
Prosecutors are offering 18 months of detention, with a 6-month minimum and credit for time served in pretrial detention. The murder charge against the teen, who was 13 at the time of Majors' death, was dropped.
During the hearing, which took place over Zoom, prosecutor Rachel Glantz explained that her team offered the guilty plea due to the boy's age and the fact that this was his first experience with the juvenile justice system.
The teen, dressed in a green collared shirt and a white undershirt, stared ahead and nervously twisted his hair throughout the beginning of the hearing.
After confirming to Judge Carol Goldstein that he wanted to plead guilty, he then addressed the court. "We went to the park... one of my friends dropped a knife. I picked up the knife... after that we saw Tessa Majors on the stairs inside Morningside Park," he said. The teen had previously admitted that he had been present for the attack and had picked up the knife that had been used.
"I saw feathers coming out of her coat," he added.
Two other teens were taken into custody in February and are being charged as adults. Their cases are pending.
The Zoom hearing was interrupted by a number of technical difficulties. Court officials spent several minutes talking about who should be added to the conference and when, delaying the start of the hearing. At one point, Goldstein had to ask the other members of the call to mute their phones.
After the teen read his statement, Goldstein realized that his family members had been kicked out of the call. But the family insisted it was "fine," and said he didn't need to repeat it.
Majors, a Virginia native, was stabbed multiple times in New York City's Morningside Park at approximately 7 p.m. on December 11. She managed to climb up a staircase onto the street, where a security guard found her and called for help.
"We are devastated by the senseless loss of our beautiful and talented Tess," the Majors family said in a December statement reported by CBS New York. "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."
The Legal Aid Society, which represents the teen, released a statement in support of the plea. "Tessa Majors's death was tragic. It caused incalculable pain to her loved ones and affected our entire city," the group wrote. "This plea to Robbery in the First Degree is consistent with our client's limited role in this tragic event. He did not touch Ms. Majors or take any of her property. Furthermore, no DNA evidence exists linking him to the events."
"He will face its repercussions for a long time, likely the rest of his life. This plea clears a path for him and his family to move forward with their lives," the group added. "His acceptance of responsibility is an important first step; it provides an opportunity for this now 14-year-old to achieve a successful future."