Police release teen suspect in Barnard student's killing

NEW YORK (AP) — A 14-year-old boy suspected of fatally stabbing a Barnard College freshman was released from police custody on Thursday, mere hours after New York City police said he had been located following a two-week manhunt.

Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison tweeted that finding the suspect “was a significant development in the investigative process,” but that the youth had since been released to the custody of his lawyers. Harrison didn't say why the boy was released.

A police spokesman declined to provide details, saying “the investigation remains active and ongoing."

A spokesman for Neighborhood Defender Service confirmed that the organization is providing the boy with legal representation but declined to comment further.

The 14-year-old is one of three youths police believe were involved in the stabbing of 18-year-old Tessa Majors as she walked through Manhattan’s Morningside Park on Dec. 11.

Police tracked him down after taking the unusual step last Friday of releasing photographs of him but not his name or any other identifying information.

Harrison announced in a tweet Thursday morning that the boy had been found, but a police spokeswoman declined to answer questions about where and how he was located.

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Killing of college freshman Tessa Majors
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Killing of college freshman Tessa Majors
People pause and place a candle at a make-shift memorial for Tessa Majors inside the Barnard campus, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in New York. Majors, a 18-year-old Barnard College freshman from Virginia, was fatally stabbed in a park near the school's campus in New York City. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
A New York City police department detective use a flashlight to look for evidence in Morningside Park, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Tessa Majors, a 18-year-old Barnard College freshman from Virginia, was fatally stabbed in the park near the school's campus in New York City. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
A reporter does a standup next to a make-shift memorial for Tessa Majors alongside Morningside Park, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Manhattan's Upper West Side,. Majors, a 18-year-old Barnard College freshman from Virginia, was fatally stabbed in a park near the school's campus in New York City. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
A woman walks past a make-shift memorial for Tessa Majors inside the Barnard College campus, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in New York. Majors, a 18-year-old Barnard College freshman from Virginia, was fatally stabbed in a park near the school's campus in New York City. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
A New York City Police Dept. Crime Scene Unit and officers assemble at an entrance to Morningside Park along Manhattan's Upper West Side, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in New York. An 18-year-old Barnard College freshman, identified as Tessa Majors, has been fatally stabbed during an armed robbery in the park, sending shock waves through the college and wider Columbia University community. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Law enforcement officers search Morningside Park along Manhattan's Upper West Side, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in New York. An 18-year-old Barnard College freshman, identified as Tessa Majors, has been fatally stabbed during an armed robbery in the park, sending shock waves through the college and wider Columbia University community. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
New York City Police Dept. officers work a crime scene in Morningside Park along Manhattan's Upper West Side, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in New York. An 18-year-old Barnard College freshman, identified as Tessa Majors, has been fatally stabbed during an armed robbery in the park, sending shock waves through the college and wider Columbia University community. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Law enforcement officers search Morningside Park along Manhattan's Upper West Side, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in New York. An 18-year-old Barnard College freshman, identified as Tessa Majors, has been fatally stabbed during an armed robbery in the park, sending shock waves through the college and wider Columbia University community. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Police tape cordons off an entrance to Morningside Park along Manhattan's Upper West Side, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in New York. An 18-year-old Barnard College freshman, identified as Tessa Majors, has been fatally stabbed during an armed robbery in the park, sending shock waves through the college and wider Columbia University community. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12: A person stands over flowers laid near the entrance of Barnard College on December 12, 2019 in New York City. Eighteen-year-old Barnard College student Tessa Majors was reportedly stabbed to death nearby in Morningside Park on Wednesday evening during an armed robbery. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12: A sign for Barnard College is seen on December 12, 2019 in New York City. Eighteen-year-old Barnard College student Tessa Majors was reportedly stabbed to death nearby in Morningside Park on Wednesday evening during an armed robbery. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12: A sign advertising a reward for information regarding a homicide is posted at the entrance of Morningside Park on December 12, 2019 in New York City. Eighteen-year-old Barnard College student Tessa Majors was reportedly stabbed to death in the park on Wednesday evening during an armed robbery. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12: An NYPD officer patrols the entrance to Morningside Park on December 12, 2019 in New York City. Eighteen-year-old Barnard College student Tessa Majors was reportedly stabbed to death in the park on Wednesday evening during an armed robbery. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
Tessa Majors murder: 13-year-old arrested for stabbing college freshman in New York park
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Of the two other suspects, only one has been charged.

A 13-year-old boy arrested Dec. 13 and charged as a juvenile with felony murder told detectives he was at the park with the other youths but wasn't the one who stabbed Majors, police said.

Another juvenile suspect was questioned for several hours, also on Dec. 13, but police let him go, Harrison said. He has declined to say why that boy wasn’t charged.

Majors was stabbed while walking in the park just before 7 p.m., two days before the start of final exams at Barnard, an all-women's school that is part of the Ivy League’s Columbia University.

She staggered up a flight of stairs to street level and collapsed in a crosswalk.

Her death has troubled city and college leaders, both for its proximity to campus and its apparent randomness.

Some city leaders have urged police to use caution in investigating Majors' death to avoid repeating mistakes made with the Central Park Five — a group of five black and Hispanic teens wrongfully convicted of a 1989 rape.

Harrison said in a tweet that the youth taken into custody Thursday had lawyers present “for the entire investigative process.”

At a press conference last week, he said the youths previously questioned in the Majors case had guardians present and were told of their right to a lawyer.

The Legal Aid Society, which represents the first arrested youth, said detectives should have waited until he had a lawyer before questioning him.

The organization has also raised concerns about the track record of one of the detectives in the case, saying Wilfredo Acevedo had been the subject of disciplinary findings and was accused in lawsuits of planting and falsifying evidence, lying in court papers and using excessive force.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea defended Acevedo, saying in a written statement that he had never been found to have made a single false statement or falsely arrested anyone by the NYPD, the city's police watchdog agency, courts or prosecutors.

Shea said the Legal Aid Society was “trying to undermine the case” by singling out Acevedo with “calculated, personal attacks.”

In the wake of Majors' death, Barnard and Columbia faculty have reported receiving “abhorrent and viciously racist” robocall messages from a white supremacist organization, and a Connecticut man was arrested after police say he posted online that he was going to kill the suspected stabber.

Majors played in a rock band, sported green hair and had told an editor from a newspaper internship in high school that she planned to take journalism classes in college.

She was memorialized Saturday at a private service at her high school in Charlottesville, Virginia. St. Anne’s Head of School David Lourie told mourners that being around Majors left everyone feeling “more optimistic about the future."

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Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak

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