Freshman was fatally stabbed during an early-evening walk in Morning side Park.

Tessa Majors came to New York City to make some music.

Ms. Majors, an 18-year-old Barnard student whom everyone recognized by her green hair, grew up in Charlottesville, Va., and moved to New York City for college, spending her weekends singing and playing punk rock.

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She and her band had just released their first album this fall and had played their first New York City gig in October.

But on Wednesday at 7 p.m., as Ms. Majors was walking through Morningside Park near her campus, she was fatally stabbed, the police said.

The killing of a first-year college student in Morningside Heights rattled city residents. New Yorkers, now accustomed to low crime rates, were reminded of a time when few people, especially young women, would consider walking in a park at night.

Police officials said they were still piecing together what took place on Wednesday night. Surveillance video has been recovered, which the police are reviewing, along with a knife, though police were unsure if it was connected to the killing.

Investigators interviewed two teenagers initially considered to be persons of interest in the case, but later released them.

“There is still a lot of work that needs to be done,” Rodney Harrison, the Police Department’s new chief of detectives, said, adding, “We are going to need the community to help us with the investigation.”

Ms. Majors was walking in the park when she was approached by one to three people near West 116th Street and Morningside Drive, Chief Harrison said.

There was a struggle, and one of the attackers pulled out a knife and stabbed Ms. Majors several times, he said. The attackers fled and Ms. Majors staggered up a flight of stairs, out of the park and onto the street, where a school security guard found her and called 911.

She was taken to Mount Sinai St. Luke’s hospital, where she died from her injuries, he said.

“We lost a very special, very talented, and very well-loved young woman,” her family said in a statement on Thursday. “Tess shone bright in this world, and our hearts will never be the same.”

Ms. Majors’s parents were on their way to New York, the police said. Her father, Robert Inman Majors, is a novelist and teaches creative writing at James Madison University.

The park where Ms. Majors was killed is in a Harlem precinct that has grown safer over the years, but residents have raised concerns about persistent safety issues in the park — even as the neighborhood around it improved, and playgrounds and ball fields replaced patches that were once strewn with crack vials.

Earlier this year, several people reported that they had been approached from behind in the park and punched by young people.

Assaults overall have fallen slightly over the last year in the precinct, but police data shows that robberies have increased, with many of the victims targeted for personal electronics. As of Dec. 8, there had been 20 robberies inside Morningside Park or on its perimeter this year, compared to seven in the same period last year.

Since June, five people reported being robbed on or near the staircase at 116th Street and Morningside Drive, near the spot where Ms. Majors was killed. Recently, the police said, several teenagers had been arrested in a pattern of robberies in the area.

The killing shocked the college and the city.

“It’s terrifying to think that that can happen anywhere,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference on Thursday. “It’s unbelievable to me that that can happen here next to one of our great college campuses.”

Barnard’s president, Sian Leah Beilock, wrote in a campuswide letter sent late Wednesday night: “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.”

Ms. Majors’s Instagram account shows a young woman new to the city and eager to develop her music. She sang and played bass guitar in a band called Patient 0.

“Safe to say the first NYC show went well ;)” she wrote on Instagram on Oct. 11. A month earlier, the band had released an album called “Girl Problems.”

People who knew Ms. Majors recalled an enthusiastic teenager eager to make her mark.

Aliza Haskal, a friend and classmate from Virginia said, “Tess was all music.”

Christopher M. Graham, an editor at the Augusta Free Press in Virginia where Ms. Majors interned recently, said he had been impressed with her work ethic. “She went full-bore into everything,” he recalled.

It did not surprise Mr. Graham that Ms. Majors was crisscrossing New York, making music and adapting to city life quickly. “She was more worldly than most people 17 or 18 years old coming from here,” he said.
Related image Longtime Morningside Heights residents said the killing was a troubling reminder of an era they thought had been left behind.

“When I was growing up and even in my 20s, you never came to this park, daytime or nighttime,” said Maria Lopez, 61, who said she had spent her entire life in the area. “You didn’t even walk on Morningside Drive.”

But in recent years, Ms. Lopez said, she had begun to enjoy walking through the park.

“Ten years ago, it got kind of cleaned up,” she said. “I started seeing moms and dads, babysitters. I started feeling safe.”

Still, she said, “I would see young people, students, going in here at night. I was like, ‘Wow. I would never, ever do that.’”

John McEvoy, 57, said that he, too, had lived in the area his whole life and that he worried about a possible revival of the danger the park posed when he was younger.

Mr. McEvoy said that in recent years, he had started to take his dog on walks to the pond at night. Now, he said, “I will think twice.”

Mr. McEvoy also said he had just told his 16-year-old son to take the No. 1 train and not the C, which runs along Central Park West to the east of Morningside Park, so that he would not have to cross the park to get home.

On Thursday morning, students emerged from the Barnard quad to a harsh sun and biting cold. Some commiserated in groups, their eyes bleary and their faces pinched with emotion.

Others put in earphones, looked down and walked quickly to class, avoiding the questions of journalists who had descended on the campus. One faculty member broke down in tears on the street.

Police closed off Morningside Park, leaving it eerily empty. Numbered signs marked a winding path up a staircase, appearing to trace the final moments of Ms. Majors’ life.

Barnard students said Ms. Majors had made an impression in the few months since they had started college.

Maria Blankemeyer, 19, attended the same first-year writing course as Ms. Majors and described her as a powerful presence in the classroom.

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

Many less close with Ms. Majors recalled her stopping to say hello or participating in lively dinners around campus. “Everyone knew her from her green hair,” said Mariah Hesser, 18.

Students said they were frightened now for their own safety.

“Everyone is feeling low because of it,” Orenna Brand, 20, a Columbia junior, said on Thursday. “Female underclassmen are feeling scared.”

Ms. Brand said she worried about younger classmates who might give in to fear. “I’m trying to remind them that they can still be courageous and go out in the city and go about their lives,” she said.
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And Amanda Ong, 21, a senior at the college, said her classmates should not be afraid of Morningside Park. “Nothing like this has ever happened while I’ve been here,” she said. “It seems like an isolated incident.”

Late on Wednesday, Tristen Pasternak, 20, a Barnard sophomore, was waiting near campus for a shuttle back to her dormitory.

Many Barnard students are cramming for coming exams this week.

“It’s so horrifying,” Ms. Pasternak said. “She should be going through finals like all of us.”

On Thursday night, hundreds of people gathered on the Barnard campus to mourn Ms. Majors at an outdoor candlelight vigil and a memorial service indoors, according to a college spokeswoman.

In a packed courtyard, a somber crowd stood silently in near-freezing cold, all eyes fixed on a pile of bouquets and candles. Those who attended the service inside listened to remarks from Ms. Beilock and Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia University’s president. One person who was there said no one was checking their phone.



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