An 18-year-old college student was repeatedly stabbed by a group of assailants in a Manhattan park on Wednesday night before stumbling away for help, only to collapse before she could find any.
The woman, identified as Tessa Majors, a first-year student at Barnard College, was later found collapsed in front of a security booth near Columbia University by a security guard who had been out on patrol. But after being rushed to Mount Sinai St. Luke’s hospital, she succumbed to her injuries.
Law enforcement sources cited by the New York Daily News said a group of suspects approached the woman in Morningside Park and tried to rob her before stabbing her in the torso several times. She was reportedly walking down a set of steps to the park on W. 116th St. near Morningside Drive when she was surrounded by the group.
After the attack, she managed to climb back up the stairs but collapsed in front of a Columbia security guard booth. The public safety officer came to her aid “immediately upon recognizing she was injured,” a Columbia University spokesperson said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Officers stationed at this location do not make rounds that cause them to leave their post,” the spokesperson said.
Mary, a woman who works as a nanny in the area, told The Daily Beast she received an alert from the Citizen app around 7:05 p.m. that there had been an assault with a knife a few hundred feet away. She looked out the window and saw a woman lying in the street as a police officer performed CPR.
“There were about six cops in total at that point surrounding the girl,” Mary said in a text message. She said police were still searching the area when she left around 10:30 p.m.
“I hope they catch the guy, no one should ever have to fear their walk home,” she told The Daily Beast.
Police have not yet announced any suspects, but sources cited by the Daily News said two teenage boys were being questioned in connection with the attack. Police said the two teens were cleared as suspects and released from Manhattan’s 26th Precinct Thursday evening.
In an email to students, Barnard College President Sian Leah Beilock said Majors was fatally stabbed during an armed robbery in Morningside Park.
“Tessa was just beginning her journey at Barnard and in life. We mourn this devastating murder of an extraordinary young woman and member of our community,” Beilock said in the email. “This is an unthinkable tragedy that has shaken us to our core.”
Beilock said the college’s counseling services will remain open all night Wednesday and throughout the day Thursday. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is also offering counseling services to the campus, and will be stepping up the police presence in the area.
“The idea that a college freshman at Barnard was murdered in cold blood is absolutely, not only painful to me as a parent, it’s terrifying to think that that could happen anywhere,” de Blasio said during an event in Brooklyn on Thursday.
Majors interned last spring with the Augusta Free Press, an independent newspaper in Virginia. Her father is the novelist Inman Majors, who’s written six books and teaches English at James Madison University.
“We lost a very special, very talented, and very well-loved young woman,” the family said in a statement. “Tess shone bright in this world, and our hearts will never be the same.”