Student, 18, Is Fatally Stabbed Near Barnard Campus

By Ed Shanahan and Matthew Sedacca

A first-year student was killed during an armed robbery in Morningside Park.

The main entrance to Barnard College in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.
The main entrance to Barnard College in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.Credit...Emon Hassan for The New York Times

By Ed Shanahan and

An 18-year-old Barnard freshman was fatally stabbed just after nightfall on Wednesday during a mugging in a park near the college’s Manhattan campus, the police and college officials said.

In a campuswide letter sent around 11 p.m., Sian Leah Beilock, Barnard’s president, identified the victim as Tessa Majors and said she had been killed in an armed robbery in Morningside Park.

“Tessa was just beginning her journey at Barnard and in life,” Ms. Beilock wrote. “We mourn this devastating murder of an extraordinary young woman and member of our community.”

Ms. Beilock said in the letter that she and Leslie Grinage, the dean of the college, had spoken with Ms. Majors’s parents, who were on their way to New York. She also urged “anyone in need” to take advantage of the college’s counseling services.

The official police account of the crime offered few details. At about 5:30 p.m., officers with the New York Police Department responded to a report that a woman had been assaulted near West 116th Street and Morningside Drive, the police said.

When they arrived, the officers found an unconscious 18-year-old woman who had been stabbed multiple times. She was taken to Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, the police said.

No one had been arrested and the investigation was continuing Wednesday night, the police said.

Ms. Majors’s Instagram account shows a young woman new to the city and eager to develop her music. She sang and played guitar in a band called Patient 0, which recently played its first concert in New York.

“Safe to say the first NYC show went well ;)” she wrote on Instagram on Oct. 11. A month earlier, the band released an album called “Girl Problems.”

It was, Ms. Majors wrote, “a showcase of all my favorite songs I wrote in high school with Hannah.”

Walking up Broadway near the Barnard campus near West 116th Street on Wednesday night, Isabel Jauregui, 20, and Aja Johnson, 20, said they had learned about the killing from campus news alerts.

Ms. Johnson, a Columbia student, said she had previously participated in an effort to help clean up park and improve its reputation among some people as dangerous. She said the murder of Ms. Majors would affect students’ perception of the park.

“This is going to demonize the image,” she said.

Major crime was down about 1 percent this year through Dec. 1 compared with the same period last year, but murder was up about 8 percent, according to Police Department statistics. There had been 298 murders by Dec. 1, compared with 275 to that point in 2018, police data showed.

Ms. Jauregui, a Barnard student who works on the Columbia Spectator student newspaper, said that students were on edge after hearing about the killing.

“My friend is throwing up in the bathroom,” she said. “She’s so scared.”

Niharika Rao, 19, and Layne Donovan, 18, two Barnard students, said the attack had left the entire campus shaken.

“Everybody knows each other,” Ms. Donovan said.

Ms. Rao recalled encountering Ms. Majors once while eating on campus.

“She has green hair,” Ms. Rao said. “I told her at Diana I liked her hair,” referring to the Diana Center Cafe.

Tristen Pasternak, a Barnard sophomore, was waiting near campus for a shuttle back to her dormitory late Wednesday. She said she not was not completely surprised to hear that someone had been attacked in the park.

“I used to go through there,” Ms. Pasternak, 20, said. “It’s always been a weird vibe.”

This week is a so-called reading week for Barnard students, and many have been cramming for coming exams. Ms. Pasternak said that as she made her way around campus on Wednesday, she could tell that people were learning of the attack from the expressions on their faces as the looked at their phones.

“It’s so horrifying” she said. “She should be going through finals like all of us.”