Investigators in the case of slain Barnard College freshman Tessa Majors believe they may have the results of DNA and other forensic tests as early as New Year’s Eve as their probe into the killing continues to focus on three juveniles, a top NYPD official said Friday.
In a briefing with reporters about the case, NYPD chief of detectives Rodney Harrison described how one potential 14-year-old suspect was taken into custody in the Bronx early Thursday, declined to talk with police and in the presence of a defense attorney gave forensic evidence to detectives under a court order.
While Harrison would only describe the evidence given as “forensic,” a law enforcement source who didn’t want to be named said earlier that the material included a DNA sample. The 14-year-old taken into custody was released from the 26th Precinct later Thursday.
Asked when police expected to receive the results of the forensic testing, Harrison said the evidence could come back in three to seven days, which could mean as early as next Monday or later next week.
So far, one 13-year-old suspect has been charged with felony murder in the killing of 18-year-old Majors the evening of Dec. 11 in Morningside Park. The juvenile’s case is being processed in Family Court and a further hearing is scheduled Jan. 2. The 13-year-old reportedly made statements implicating himself and two other 14-year-old youths in the deadly assault in which Majors was allegedly targeted for robbery and repeatedly stabbed about her body and face. Majors managed to get to a college security post but died in a hospital.
On Friday, Harrison indicated there was a possibility any potential case against the two 14-year-olds could wind up in criminal court, depending upon the nature of any charges. He said the Manhattan District Attorney's Office would make that determination.
Law enforcement sources said the forensic testing could prove crucial to the case. Under New York State law the testimony of an accomplice, such as the 13-year-old, couldn’t be used against any co-conspirators. As a result, police would need to rely on forensic evidence and other witnesses to corroborate the 13-year-old's statements against any other suspects, officials said.
It was unclear if police had recovered any DNA from Majors' body to make a match. Possible sources of DNA evidence in the Majors case could be genetic material from any assailant who grabbed her face, throat or clothing. Majors also reportedly bit her assailant so there may have been DNA recovered from her mouth. One former NYPD investigator said that it was not uncommon in knife attacks for assailants to cut themselves, leaving blood — and DNA — on the victim.