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Murder of Barnard College student sparks fears of rising crime rate in NY neighborhood

The murder of first-year Barnard College student – Tessa Rane Majors — has shaken New Yorkers, who fear the young woman’s murder may signal a worrying crime trend.

Majors, 18, was killed while walking through a local park near the Barnard Campus. Police interviewed two teenagers after the murder, but they later released them. Police now hope someone will come forward with new information or a lead.

Police say they are still trying to determine what happened Wednesday night. They have recovered surveillance video from near the crime scene and are reviewing it now. They also recovered a knife, but have still not determined if it’s the murder weapon.

“There is still a lot of work that needs to be done,” Rodney Harrison, the Police Department’s chief of detectives, said, according to the New York Times.

“We are going to need the community to help us with the investigation.”

Police believe one to three people may have approached Majors, who was originally from Charlottesville, Va. What happened after that is not clear. Police say they believe there was a struggle and one of her attackers had a knife. She was stabbed several times. 

“I’m very confident … that we’re going to bring this individual to justice,” Harrison said.

Majors did not die at the scene. Instead, she staggered up a flight of stairs, managed to struggle out of the park and on to the street. That’s where a school security guard found her before calling 911.

She was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s hospital. Back in Virginian, her devastated family released a statement.

“We lost a very special, very talented, and very well-loved young woman,” her family yesterday. 

“Tess shone bright in this world, and our hearts will never be the same.”

What is concerning to New Yorkers beyond the death of a bright young freshman student, who had everything to look forward to, is the fear that her murder has brought into a community that had, by all accounts, appeared to be safe not too long ago. But recently, local residents say they’ve seen a change for the worse.

Residents have reported being punched at the park by young people. While assaults are down, the NYT reports that police data shows an increase in robberies.  Residents have reported at least 20 robberies this year at Morningside Park, where Majors was stabbed. Five robberies were reported at or near the staircase where Majors struggled in an effort to get help just before her death.

But for people who knew Majors, fears that their community is becoming more unsafe are, for now, overshadowed by their grief at the loss of a teenager everyone recalls with fondness.

 “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,” Barnard’s president, Sian Leah Beilock.

Her fellow students remember her as bright and unafraid. 

“She was bold,” said Maria Blankemeyer, who was in the same writing course as Majors.

“She was always the first one to say something weird. She’d always find some theme no one had seen before.”

And then there was her green hair. 

 “Everyone knew her from her green hair,” said fellow-Barnard student Mariah Hesser.

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