The Tragedy of Tessa Majors' Murder

'New York' examines 2019 slaying of Barnard freshman
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2020 10:00 AM CDT
A Deeper Look at Tessa Majors' Murder
In this Dec. 21, 2019, photo, photos, articles and letters are laid out on display before a ceremony honoring Tessa Majors at St. Anne's Belfield School in Charlottesville, Va.   (Erin Edgerton/The Daily Progress via AP, File)

The details of the crime itself aren't in much dispute: Police say three boys, ages 13 and 14, robbed 18-year-old Tessa Majors in New York City's Morningside Park on the evening of December 11, 2019, and one of them fatally stabbed her when she put up a struggle. Now Lisa Miller of New York magazine does a deep dive not just into the killing but into the complicated backdrop of race, crime, and gentrification at play. The headline provides a sense: "Every generation, a crime tells a new story about New York. The murder of Tessa Majors is ours." Majors was a white freshman at Barnard College. The nearby park "has long had a reputation as a no-man’s-land," writes Miller. It's a boundary of sorts between Barnard and Columbia University on one end and "the flats of Harlem, its elegant brownstones mixed with storefronts and public housing."

The piece spends time sussing out that background, but it also focuses on the suspects, especially the "baby-faced" 13-year-old accused with two older friends. Miller similarly profiles the "tiny and feminine" Majors, quoting friends using words like "bold" and "fearless." As Miller puts it, "she came off, especially to other first-years just finding their place in a new pecking order, as almost intimidatingly confident." The piece notes that her father, novelist and English professor Inman Majors of Virginia, frequently appears in court. He "takes his job as Tess’s representative seriously," writes Miller. The piece ends by describing a parole hearing for the 13-year-old. "At the word victim, Inman Majors made a loud and involuntary gasp, as if he were taken suddenly by surprise," writes Miller. "For the fifth time, Judge Goldstein denied the boy’s parole." (Read the full story.)

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