The city failed Tessa Majors by ignoring this huge warning sign
The investigation into the fatal mugging of freshman Tessa Majors just two blocks from her Barnard College campus suffered a setback Saturday with officials setting free one of the young suspects — as spiraling crime stats from the past year painted a picture of a neighborhood where violence was little surprise.
A 14-year-old boy, whose name is being withheld by The Post, had been the second kid arrested in the brutal stabbing, but he was sprung late Friday after city Law Department officials — who handle the prosecution of juveniles — declined to prosecute him due to a lack of evidence, law enforcement sources told The Post.
“He came in” to Morningside Heights’ 26th Precinct, said one source. “He lawyered up. They had to let him go,” the source said.
“He’s still a suspect,” another source said. “But they want more evidence. They want a stronger case.”
The boy’s release — and his silence — complicate a murder with limited identifying surveillance video, no eyewitnesses and, as yet, no murder weapon.
On Saturday the NYPD redoubled its efforts, canvassing for witnesses, video and looking at DNA evidence, sources said.
For the third day, a pair of NYPD divers scoured a pond inside Morningside Park, between 114th and 113th streets in a search for the deadly blade and other evidence.
The neighborhood is now dense with patrol officers and investigators — dozens swarmed an attempted mugging at 116th and Riverside Drive on Friday night.
But where were they before Majors’ death, some residents are asking.
Morningside Park was the most dangerous park in the city for muggings in the first nine months of 2019 — logging 11 robberies in that period.
By comparison, there were 10 reported muggings in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and nine in Claremont Park in The Bronx in that period.
Reports of violent crime overall spiked 82 percent in the park and on its perimeter in the past year ending Dec. 8, according to NYPD stats.
There have been 21 muggings in the neighborhood in total compared to 11 during the same period a year prior.
“I was robbed in Morningside Park in August,” just a block north from where Majors was attacked, one victim, a 24-year-old man, told The Post.
Three or four teens threatened him with a box cutter at 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, and he handed them $120 in cash, he said, an account confirmed by cops.
“I was told by police that it was not a very safe place to be,” said the victim.
“Most people know somebody who has gotten robbed [there].”
Teen terrors in the neighborhood have been a problem for months. In May, a pair of 13-year-old girls were arrested — and accused of running a boys-and-girls crime crew — after police caught them beating a 40-year-old woman with a stick on Amsterdam Avenue near W. 135th Street, cops said.
The victim had asked the girls to stop running around inside the medical clinic where she works, she told The Post at the time.
“F–king bitch!” she said one of the young assailants screamed during the beat-down.
Police still believe three young, teen neighborhood boys committed Majors’ gruesome slaying, in which the first-year student, a musician and aspiring journalist from Charlottesville, Va., was slashed in her neck, face and arm as she resisted being mugged during a 7 p.m. walk through the park.
Majors would stagger from the park up a flight of stone steps and onto the street before collapsing, steps from her school.
The first boy arrested in the case — Zyairr Davis, a slender, 13-year-old weighing barely 110 pounds — remains in custody and charged with felony murder after police say he admitted being there with the two other boys.
According to court testimony, Davis admitted no contact with Majors, but copped to picking up a dropped knife and handing it to the teen who committed the fatal stabbing.
He saw a puff of feathers escape from Majors’ down coat when the blade went in, police say he admitted.
A third teen suspect was still being sought Saturday.
“They travel in packs. They hang around making a lot of noise in the streets in the neighborhood and all along the park,” said local businessman Darius DiTullio, 61, who owns a daycare center for pets.
Recently he confronted a group of teens of about the same age as the Majors suspects when one of them spat into his basement.
“I spoke to him. I said, ‘Listen, you can hang out with your friends, but don’t be spitting on my property.’ He said to me, ‘F—k you, suck my d—-.’
Police were unimpressed, he said.
“I made a complaint to the cops” at the 26th Precinct, by phone, he said.
“A lady told me to tell them to ‘move along.’
“They don’t want to listen,” he said of the teenagers. “They want to do what they want to.”
The neighborhood needs more policing and the park needs more lighting, things the community has requested for years, a woman who has lived in Morningside Heights for 40 years told The Post.
“Now they are coming around,” she said of the extra police. “But it’s not too late. They can still do something to prevent someone else from dying.”
Additional reporting by Ruth Weissmann, Sara Dorn, Khristina Narizhnaya. and Georgett Roberts.
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