A 14-year-old boy has been charged with murder as an adult for stabbing Barnard College student Tessa Majors to death—for her cellphone.

Rashaun Weaver admitted "he was in the park and tried to take the girl’s phone and 'she was hanging onto her phone' and that he hit her with a knife," NYPD Detective Vincent Signoretti alleges in the criminal complaint against Weaver. Weaver's admission is allegedly documented in an audio recording.

The Harlem teen was indicted on charges of intentional murder, felony murder during a robbery, and five counts of robbery. He was arrested late Friday night in the lobby of the Harlem building he lived in with his mother and other family in the Taft Houses, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said at a Saturday news conference at police headquarters.

"We are confident that we have the person in custody who stabbed her," Shea said.

Weaver allegedly evaded police after Majors's December 11th, 2019 killing, leading the NYPD to take the unusual step of tweeting his photograph and asking for "assistance from the public in locating this individual regarding the recent homicide in Morningside Park." He was found the day after Christmas, after hiding out in "numerous locations, one of them was in the Bronx," NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison said.

After police took a sample of his DNA, he was released.

Weaver was arraigned shortly before noon Saturday by Manhattan Criminal Court Supervising Judge Melissa C. Jackson. Prosecutors from Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance's office requested that he be remanded without bail; Judge Jackson granted their request. Weaver will likely be held at the Horizon Juvenile Detention Center in the South Bronx.

Police said that Majors had been fatally stabbed during a mugging just after 5:30 p.m. The wounded 18-year-old managed to crawl up the stairs of Morningside Park to Morningside Drive, where a Columbia University security guard spotted her. Police arrived quickly but her wounds were too severe; Majors was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai-St. Luke's Hospital.

Police officers use a flashlight in Morningside Park after sundown

Police officers in Morningside Park, looking for evidence, after Majors' death in December, 2019.

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Police officers in Morningside Park, looking for evidence, after Majors' death in December, 2019.
J.B. Nicholas / Gothamist

Majors’s death stunned the city, and raised questions about a recent spike of robberies in the park—and whether Barnard and Columbia University officials did enough to let students know about those incidents. The murder also inflamed long-running racial tensions between Columbia and the surrounding community.

Weaver is the second suspect to be charged with Majors’s killing; a 13-year-old was arrested earlier in December. Because New York law draws the line in most murder cases between reform-oriented juvenile "adjudication" and adult-like criminal punishments at 14, the 13-year-old was charged as a juvenile and is being prosecuted in Family Court. He is also being held without bail.

A third suspect, another Harlem teen, was also arrested in December but he was released because prosecutors said there was not enough evidence to charge him, the Daily News reported. DA Vance said on Saturday that the investigation into Majors’s murder remains "an active investigation, in terms of other suspects, and that willl continue."

Three teens allegedly confronted Majors on the landing of wide stone steps inside Morningside Park at 116th Street. Weaver commanded Majors to "run your shit. Gimme your phone. You got some weed, gimme that too," according to the criminal complaint against Weaver. Majors, the complaint says, screamed, "Help me! I’m being robbed."

Security camera video shows "three individuals and Tessa Majors appearing to struggle on that landing, before Ms. Majors was able to break free and slowly stagger up the stairs," according to the criminal complaint.

Minutes later, NYPD officer Ena Lewis responded to a robbery-in-progress call and found Majors lying face down in the street. "I turned her over," Lewis testified at a December court hearing for the 13-year-old, and "observed blood on the female’s face and her wheezing as if she was trying to catch her breath."

Majors died of “stab wounds of torso,” confirmed Aja Worthy-Davis, a spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. One of the wounds pierced her heart.

Police found Weaver's DNA under one of "Majors’s fingernail clippings," according to the criminal complaint. Other evidence in the case against Weaver includes "video evidence, blood evidence, smart phone evidence, iCloud evidence, the witness identification, and the defendant's own statements," Vance said on Saturday.

The Central Park jogger case and the miscarriage of justice that led to the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of the Central Park Five weighed on the minds of police and prosecutors from the start of the investigation into Majors’s murder, Vance implicitly acknowledged.

"Both our offices, the police and the Manhattan DA"s office, ... determined from day one that whatever the opposite of a rush to judgment is, that is how this investigation would proceed," Vance said.

A spokesperson for Majors's family did not return calls on Saturday seeking comment.

Weaver will be prosecuted in New York's newly-created "Youth Court."

New York State reformed its juvenile justice laws in 2017. Under the new laws, the age of criminal responsibility was raised for most non-violent felonies to 18. The new laws also designate "juvenile offenders" as persons 15 years old or younger alleged to have committed violent felonies. Juvenile offenders are prosecuted in a new court called "Youth Court."

Under the new laws, Youth Court is part of the state’s criminal court system, “presided over by a Family Court judge, where offenders would have access to additional intervention services and programming,” according to a statement issued at the time by State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who negotiated enactment of the reform on behalf of the Democrat-controlled assembly.

According to Heastie's statement, all violent juvenile offenders “will be treated as adults for sentencing purposes, though the court will be directed to consider the defendant’s age when imposing a sentence of incarceration.”

Weaver faces a maximum sentence of 15 years-to-life. His next Youth Court appearance is February 19th.

Weaver's lawyer said on Saturday, “He’s a 14-year-old kid. He’s presumed innocent until proven guilty.”