The stabbing death of a college student at a park just one block from Columbia University has stunned the New York institution’s community.
Tessa Majors, an 18-year-old freshman at Barnard College who hailed from Virginia, was fatally stabbed at Manhattan’s Morningside Park during a Wednesday evening attack, authorities said. Barnard is a liberal arts all-women college that’s part of Columbia.
“With broken hearts, we share tragic news about the death of one of our students,” Barnard President Sian Leah Beilock said late Wednesday in a letter to the campus. “This is an unthinkable tragedy that has shaken us to our core.”
Police said around 7 p.m. they responded to a call reporting an assault at the park and found an unconscious woman with multiple stab wounds. She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
There have been no arrests. Police Chief Rodney Harrison said Thursday two minors were questioned — they were later released — and a knife has been recovered, though it’s not clear whether it was the one used in the killing.
The initial police report set the timeline of the call at 5:30 p.m. Harrison said it was shortly before 7 p.m.
Harrison said there were between one and three assailants involved in the attack, which he described as “a despicable crime,” and added: “It’s all hands on deck and we’re going to do a thorough investigation and bring these people to justice.’’
Beilock said she has notified Majors’ parents and they were heading to New York from their home in Charlottesville, Virginia. The victim’s father, Inman Majors, is the author of six novels and an English professor 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.”
Several photos in Majors’ Instagram page show her playing guitar and singing in a band called Patient 0, which in September released a nine-song album called “Girl Problems.’’ She listed Courtney Love, Courtney Barnett and Kim Gordon among her musical inspirations.
Isabel Jauregui and Aja Johnson, college students walking outside campus Wednesday night, told the New York Times they had found out about the murder from a campus news alert.
Jauregui, who attends Barnard and works for the Columbia Spectator school newspaper, said students are nervous.
“My friend is throwing up in the bathroom,’’ she told the Times. “She’s so scared.’’
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea acknowledged there has been a recent surge of robberies perpetrated by juveniles at Morningside Park, which has long had a reputation for danger.
Shea said police have increased deployments in the area, and said city parks are much safer now than when he was growing up in the city.
“I remember when the parks of New York City were filled with broken glass. You didn’t need to cut the lawns because there was no grass,” Shea said. “Look where we are today. The crime statistics back it up. And then you have an incident like this and it shakes you to your core. We will do everything possible to ensure that, if anything was missed, we will correct it.’’
Contributing: The Associated Press