When Noel Estevez and Timothy Crump were friends, they did the things that 14-year-old boys everywhere like to do. They played video games, shared dirty jokes on Facebook and had at least one sleepover.
But when they became enemies, their conflict quickly turned dark, shrouded in unstable home lives and underestimated by the teachers and social workers who came into contact with the troubled teenagers from the Bronx.
Noel’s mother had a history of run-ins with the law. Timothy was living in a homeless shelter with his mother.
Ultimately, a fight between the two, over a missing cellphone, ended in bloodshed on Wednesday afternoon, when, the police said, Timothy jumped his old friend outside their school and Noel, in turn, pulled out a knife and stabbed Timothy to death.
On Thursday, Noel was charged as an adult with second-degree murder and manslaughter and was arraigned Thursday night in a Bronx courthouse. Noel’s father, Felix Estevez, was absent; the defense lawyer, Eric Poulos, said Mr. Estevez had been threatened by Timothy’s family. Mr. Poulos said Noel’s aunts and cousins attended.
In a hearing that lasted about 10 minutes, Mr. Poulos described months of harassment and intimidation that his client suffered, including visits to Noel’s home and attacks based on his physical appearance. The family had repeatedly sought help from the authorities, to little avail, he said.
“That was the terror he faced,” Mr. Poulos said.
Of Timothy, he said, “The person who takes the sword, sometimes it comes back to haunt them. ”
After Mr. Poulos’s remarks, Judge Laurence Busching ordered Noel held without bail and scheduled the next hearing for Tuesday.
In the weeks leading up to the violent encounter, there were signs that the dispute between the boys went beyond typical bullying.
Just one day before the stabbing, Noel’s father was so worried about the threats to his son that he visited the principal at Intermediate School 117, asking for a “safety transfer,” said Marisol Perez, a neighbor and close family friend.
But with only a few days left in the school year, Mr. Estevez was told to have Noel identify the people causing him problems and was assured that the school would look out for him.
Carmen Fariña, the schools chancellor, said that the case was under investigation and that she was troubled by what happened.
“I haven’t slept well since last night,” she said on Thursday during a visit to a school, according to a transcript provided by the Education Department. “The reality is that this is something that shouldn’t happen. Certainly shouldn’t happen to 14-year-olds. I’m devastated.”
Mr. Estevez’s plea to the school was not the first time the authorities had been warned of the conflict. At various points in recent weeks, the school, the Administration for Children’s Services and the Police Department were informed of the brewing tensions, according to accounts from neighbors and family friends.
For months before the stabbing, Noel had been under attack by Timothy and a group of his friends, according to witnesses.
And it was not just during school that he was tormented.
The boys would show up at Noel’s apartment, hurling abuse and even going so far as to urinate on the door of his family’s apartment on East Clarke Place in High Bridge.
Jorge Guerrero, 47, the porter at the building, said that on at least four occasions in the last month he had to mop up urine from outside the apartment.
“Bullying, bullying, bullying,” he said.
Ms. Perez said it was worse than that.
“They would move their bowels in front of the door, try and set the door on fire,” she said.
The police were called, she said.
“Every time the cops would come, the kids would leave, saying there was nothing they could do about it,” she said.
The police had interacted at least once with the family recently. Ms. Perez was arrested with Noel’s mother, Maria Estevez, on June 11 on charges of selling drugs to an undercover police officer. Ms. Perez said they are both innocent.
A law enforcement official briefed on the matter said the police did not have records of being called to the apartment because of the harassment before Wednesday’s attack but that there had been reports afterward.
The official said Noel had borrowed Timothy’s cellphone, but was unable to return it. Timothy is believed to have asked for the phone’s return or financial compensation, the official said.
Noel, who friends said suffered from a speech impediment and Tourette’s syndrome, missed so many classes that the city’s child welfare agency was alerted. He stayed out of school for about three months, Mr. Poulos said.
Case workers visited in early May, Ms. Perez said. A person briefed on the matter said that school officials also sought help from children’s services.
Jill Krauss, a spokeswoman for children’s services, said the agency was not authorized to comment on prior child welfare involvement, if any, of the two families involved.
On May 28, Noel tried to commit suicide, Ms. Perez said. His father found the boy in his bedroom, she said, and he was taken to Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, according to medical records read to a reporter by Ms. Perez.
He was told he had depression, bipolar disorder and cyclothymia, also a mood disorder.
Noel was prescribed risperidone, known by its brand name Risperdal, which is used to treat bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses.
On June 11, he was discharged.
He returned to a home in turmoil.
Around 5 that night, his mother and Ms. Perez were arrested.
And Noel still had to face returning to school. With his mother in jail at Rikers Island, it fell to his father to deal with his son’s fears.
On Tuesday, Mr. Estevez visited with the principal, according to Ms. Perez. On Wednesday, Noel was in school.
Devora Kaye, an Education Department spokeswoman, said the department would not confirm that Mr. Estevez requested a transfer and would not comment on the deadly confrontation.
The school does not have metal detectors. Timothy had skipped school, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the matter. But when the final bell rang and students poured out of the building, Timothy was outside.
If any words were exchanged, they quickly gave way to a violent clash, the authorities said. Timothy pummeled Noel, punching him repeatedly, the police said; students who watched the fight said he struck Noel in the face.
Timothy also punched and kicked Noel in his ribs, Mr. Poulos said at a news conference after the hearing.
Noel had brought a knife with him and plunged it into his onetime friend, stabbing him three times in the torso, the police said. Timothy crumpled to the ground and died later at a hospital.
Noel ran back inside the school, where safety agents found him seated in a hallway, the bloodied knife by his side, the police said.
They held him there until more officers arrived.
On Friday morning, a custodian was still scrubbing blood off the pavement outside the school and police officers surrounded the building as children made their way to classes.
Across the street, a dresser drawer was serving as a makeshift memorial for Timothy. There were eight white candles, a bouquet of yellow flowers and notes from friends.
“You will never be forgotten,” one student wrote.
As of Thursday evening, city officials said, no one had claimed the boy’s body from the morgue.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was ordering an investigation into how every city agency that came into contact with the boys responded.
“Protecting children in crisis is one of the most fundamental responsibilities we have, and we will make sure these families and this community have the answers they deserve,” he said.
Correction: June 19, 2014
An earlier version of a photo caption with this article misstated the day that two girls visited a memorial to Timothy Crump, who was fatally stabbed. It was Thursday, not Wednesday.