Final suspect in Barnard freshman’s murder case pleads guilty

Final suspect in Barnard freshman’s murder case pleads guilty
Richard Drew/AP/File

A third teen pleaded guilty in the death of Barnard College freshman Tessa Majors as her father watched on in court, marking the beginning of the end of a two-year-long legal battle that her parents have said has prevented them from being able to grieve in peace.

Majors was an 18-year-old who was about to finish her first semester of college in December 2019 when she was stabbed and killed in nearby Morningside Park. Her father, Inman Majors, attended the hearing but did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Rashaun Weaver, now 16, was charged with two counts of second-degree murder in connection with Majors death and on Thursday pleaded guilty to one count of murder in the second degree, one count of robbery in the first degree and one count of robbery in the second degree.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos detailed that the two robbery charges Weaver pleaded guilty to stemmed from separate robbery incidents, one four days before Majors was killed in 2019, and one that took place on February 14, 2020, the day Weaver was ultimately arrested.

Two others charged in the murder already pleaded guilty and were sentenced. Luchiano Lewis, who was 14 at the time of the murder but was charged as an adult, pleaded guilty to murder and robbery charges and was sentenced in October to nine years to life in prison. In 2020, an unnamed teen who was not charged as an adult, pleaded guilty to a first-degree robbery charge and was sentenced to 18 months in the custody of the Administration for Children’s Services.

At the Weaver’s plea hearing Thursday, he quickly read from a statement.

“I intentionally caused the death of Tessa Majors by stabbing her with a knife,” Weaver said.

A troubled childhood

Weaver could face 14-years-to-life for the murder, something the Majors family has consented to, Bogdanos said in court. There will be a hearing on January 19, 2022, where his sentence will be decided by a judge.

“We are well aware of his age and his background,” Bogdanos said. “We the people have agonized over what sentence to recommend.”

His defense attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, described Weaver’s difficult childhood.

“Sometimes it gets lost on the audience that we’re talking about a kid who was 14 years old when this started. Whose brain wasn’t fully developed,” Lichtman said. “Every role model, every male relative on his father’s side was in jail or just got out of jail. This is the normal for Rashaun Weaver.”

Lichtman told reporters after the hearing that the teen is “deeply remorseful for his actions.”

“It was an opportunity for Rashaun to put this behind him to avoid a much more serious sentence,” Lichtman. “I think it was the right thing to do. I don’t feel good about this plea, I think it’s too high for a kid who was 14 years old when this occurred. That being said, this is a horrific crime.”

A group of people who another attorney for Weaver identified as his family shouted their support for the teen as he was led out of court after the hearing, one shouting, “I love you, bro.”

Prosecutors said that in determining what sentence to recommend for Weaver, they took into account his behavior at a juvenile detention facility called Crossroads where he’s been held for nearly two years.

Bogdanos listed about a dozen incidents where Weaver allegedly assaulted counselors, or youth development specialists, who were tasked with working with Weaver at the facility.

Lichtman pushed back on the allegations of assaults on counselors by Weaver, emphasizing that the teen entered custody as Covid-19 lockdowns began to go into effect, making him unable to see his family and rarely able to speak to them, as he struggles to go through puberty in custody.

“It’s not surprising that his adjustment at Crossroads wasn’t as exemplary as we’d all hoped for,” Lichtman said.

Unable to grieve their daughter in peace

In court Thursday, Bogdanos said Weaver’s plea would save the Majors family the trauma of having to attend a trial for their daughter’s murder.

During the two years since her death, her father has sat through hearing after hearing where gruesome details of her death were discussed. At Lewis’ sentencing in October, Inman Majors left the room before prosecutors showed security camera footage of Majors’ final moments alive, fighting to climb a steep set of stairs in the park after being stabbed at one suspect’s sentencing this fall.

“She is struggling now up the stairs. She has minutes left to live. She does not realize at this point why she is light-headed or why she’s dizzy or why she can’t walk or why she can’t stand or why she’s about to fall,” Bogdanos said. “And she will get to this lamp pole and collapse. And she will die — face down — on a dirty New York City street at the hands of the defendant and two others.”

Bogdanos told the court at Lewis’ sentencing hearing that the group of three teens had followed at least one other person before attacking Majors and that it was a “long, intentional, pre-meditated attack.”

“Without each of their actions, she gets away,” Bogdanos said in October.

Weaver is the final suspect in Majors’ murder to plead guilty, which could mark the end of a lengthy legal battle and a chance for Majors’ parents, Inman and Christy, to finally begin to heal.

After Lewis’ sentencing in October, Majors’ parents released a statement to CNN detailing how they have been unable to properly grieve their daughter in peace.

“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 Majors’ statement said.

December 11 marked two years since Majors’ death.

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