Suspect in murder of 16-year-old girl pleads not guilty

Man pleads not guilty to teenage girl’s murder

Man pleads not guilty to teenage girl's murder

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The man accused of killing 16-year-old Jakarah Lopez-Moore made his first court appearance Saturday morning, pleading not guilty.

Judge Maija C. Dixon ordered Tapiato to be held without bail and has scheduled a preliminary hearing for 2 p.m. Wednesday, February 28.

Police say Reign Tapiato, 27, shot and killed Lopez-Moore the day she went missing — on Aug. 27, 2023, when she left her home on Weld Street and told her grandmother she’d be right back. He then left her body in the woods behind an industrial park along the Erie Canal, police said. Her body was found by two people fishing near the Erie Canal on October 14.

Tapiato was arrested Friday and charged with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon.

Rochester Police say he was an “acquaintance” of Jakarah and had a “relationship”, but they wouldn’t elaborate beyond that.

Lopez-Moore was reported missing on August 29, two days after leaving the home on Weld Street. Investigators believe Tapiato took her into a wooded area along the canal before shooting her in the head.

When Tapiato was taken into custody Friday, police say he had a loaded illegal handgun on him. It’s unclear whether they believe that is the murder weapon.

Saturday, after the court appearance, prosecutors praised the Rochester Police Department for evidence it gathered during the early days of the search for Lopez-Moore.

“There was crucial evidence picked up during that investigation, even before the body was ultimately recovered, so I’m glad that Mr. Tapiato will be held accountable for what happened,” said Michael Caranante, special assistant district attorney.