Teenager Sentenced to 9 Years to Life in Killing of Tessa Majors

Luchiano Lewis admitted to taking part in the 2019 attack in which Ms. Majors, an 18-year-old Barnard College student, was stabbed to death in Morningside Park.

Teenager Sentenced to 9 Years to Life in Killing of Tessa Majors
The murder of Tessa Majors in 2019 prompted an outpouring of grief in Manhattan.Credit...Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

By Jonah E. Bromwich and Chelsia Rose Marcius

A teenager who last month pleaded guilty to murder in the killing of an 18-year-old Barnard student was sentenced on Thursday to nine years to life in prison.

The teenager, Luchiano Lewis, 16, said last month that he and two friends had gone to Harlem’s Morningside Park in December 2019 with the goal of robbing someone. The group settled on Tessa Majors, Mr. Lewis said, describing a violent attack on the student that culminated in her death by stabbing.

At the time, Mr. Lewis was 14. Prosecutors at the Manhattan district attorney’s office chose to charge him and one other member of the group, Rashaun Weaver, as adults. Mr. Weaver, who Mr. Lewis last month said had stabbed Ms. Majors, pleaded not guilty. His trial date is expected to be set early next week.

The third member of their group was 13 at the time of the killing, and confessed to his involvement the day after the crime. (The New York Times is withholding his name because he was a minor and was not charged as an adult.) The boy was later sentenced to up to 18 months in a juvenile detention facility, to the distress of Ms. Majors’s family, which issued a statement condemning the result.

The death of Ms. Majors rattled New Yorkers, the crime harkening back to earlier decades when the streets were not safe to walk at night.

The murder of Tessa Majors in 2019 rattled New York City. 

Mr. Lewis was arrested in February 2020, and accused of having restrained Ms. Majors, preventing her escape. He initially pleaded not guilty, but last month, changed his plea before delivering a lengthy statement, explaining the events of that wintry night in extensive detail. In addition to the nine-years-to-life sentence on the murder charge, he was sentenced to 40 months for robbery, to run concurrently.

Mr. Lewis said that Mr. Weaver had encouraged him several times to join him in committing robberies, and that they had gone to the park to do so several times before the night of Ms. Majors’s murder. In one instance, just weeks before the fatal encounter with Ms. Majors, Mr. Lewis said that he, Mr. Weaver and the third member of their group had attacked a man, but that the attempted robbery had ultimately been unsuccessful.

Mr. Lewis said that the encounter with Ms. Majors started with Mr. Weaver kicking her in the back. Ms. Majors and Mr. Weaver then began to wrestle on the ground, Mr. Lewis said, adding that using a knife was never part of the plan.

He did not mention any physical contact between himself and Ms. Majors, adding that he did not know she had been stabbed, let alone killed, until the next morning when he saw a news story about the murder on his phone, at which point he advised the third member of their group to get rid of the knife.