Luchiano Lewis, one of three teens charged in the 2019 murder of the Barnard freshman in Morningside Park, pleaded guilty last month to robbery and murder.
“The murder of Tessa Majors tore at the fabric of the entire city,” Judge Robert Mandelbaum said in handing down the sentence. “The defendant was and is extremely young. He has his whole life ahead of him but Tessa Majors does not.”
Majors, of Charlottesville, Virginia, was wrapping up her first semester at the school when she cut through the park just before 8 p.m. on December 11, 2019.
As she approached the stairs to exit at West 116th Street, police say the group of teens — Lewis, 16-year-old Rashan Weaver, and a then-13-year-old — tried to rob her and take her phone.
There was a struggle, and she was stabbed multiple times. In the last moments of her life, a security camera caught Majors trudging up a flight of steps, dripping blood, struggling to breathe and clutching her phone to summon an Uber.
As she reached to street, she collapsed against a lamppost and died minutes later.
The wrenching video was played to a rapt courtroom at the sentencing, along with the reading of a joint impact statement by parents Inman and Christy Majors.
“We still find words inadequate to describe the immeasurable pain, trauma, and suffering that our family has endured since her senseless murder,” it read, in part (full text of statement below). “Not a day goes by that we don’t think about what could have been for Tess’s future. Not a day goes by that we don’t consider what could have been done to prevent her brutal — and again — senseless — death.”
As the prosecutor read the family statement, Majors’ father sobbed audibly. He briefly exited the courtroom while the video of his daughter’s final moments was played.
Lewis, in a light colored suit and purple tie, apologized and said he felt ashamed, embarrassed and “sad in the role I played in destroying two families.”
When Lewis said to Majors’ father, “I’m deeply sorry for your loss,” the father audibly wept and covered his eyes with his hand. Lewis also broke down as he apologized to his own father, who was seated alone in the courtroom.
“Dad, I’m sorry I failed you and became less human, less than the son you raised,” he said.
The judge appeared skeptical of Lewis’ sincerity.
“Sadly and troublingly, the defendant has learned no lessons,” he said.
The judge noted the “multiple violent acts” Lewis has been involved with while incarcerated, including the beating of another inmate with a piece of metal wrapped in a sock.
“This was not an aberration,” Mandelbaum said of the Tessa Majors murder.
Police and prosecutors have said Weaver wielded the knife, but they said Lewis was every bit as culpable.
Lewis may not have wielded the knife “but was not just along for the ride,” prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos said. “He’s alive, and, because of him, she is not.”
Weaver has pleaded not guilty, while the juvenile pleaded guilty and is currently serving his sentence.
Full text of victim impact statement from Inman and Christy Majors
On December 11, 2019, the hopes and dreams for our daughter Tess came to a tragic end. Nearly two years later, we still find words inadequate to describe the immeasurable pain, trauma, and suffering that our family has endured since her senseless murder.
Tess was a brilliant student, a voracious reader, a poet and a fledgling journalist. She had big dreams. She loved everything about music, writing it, performing it, listening to it. She volunteered at the local animal shelter. She spent summers attending Nature Camp, where she loved learning about the environment and the natural world around her. She loved meeting new people with different ideas and beliefs than her own.
But mostly she loved her family and friends, her cats, and especially her younger brother. They were best friends, and his sense of loss is profound and indescribable. Tess was a friend to the friendless and kind in all the little ways that people remember forever. And she was brave. Her family misses her every moment of every day.
Our hearts ache as we watch Tess’s friends return to school, perform concerts, start new jobs, and experience all the things that our daughter never will. It is hard for many old friends to be around us. Our grief is too profound. We are too changed from the people we used to be.
With every legal proceeding, we are forced to re-live the events of December 11, 2019. We have not been able to grieve our daughter properly or in peace. Nearly two years after her murder, we still have very little closure.
The family of Tess Majors believes that murder shouldn’t be normalized or rationalized. And to those other parents who have prematurely lost a child, particularly at the hands of another human being, you have our empathy.
Our lives are forever changed, and not a day goes by that we don’t think about what could have been for Tess’s future. Not a day goes by that we don’t consider what could have been done to prevent her brutal — and again — senseless — death.
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