A 17-year-old high school dropout shot, bludgeoned or stabbed to death four people over the Christmas holidays, three of them in the home of a jewelry merchant, police said Thursday.
Jaquan Clark was a passenger in a minivan pulled over Tuesday by police who found a fully loaded .357-caliber Magnum under a seat, police Chief David Moore said. He was charged with four counts of second-degree murder and pleaded not guilty at arraignment Thursday morning.
Clark's fingerprints matched those at a house where Donald MacMaster, 62, Jeffrey Szymkowski, 33, and Arielle Griffin, 17, were killed on the night of Dec. 26, authorities said. MacMaster operated a jewelry business from the house on the city's northwest side, and the bodies were found by his brother the next day.
MacMaster was killed by a shotgun blast, Szymkowski suffered shotgun and knife wounds as well as being battered by an unidentified object, and Griffin died of stab wounds and blunt force trauma, investigators said.
Clark was also accused of killing Alfredo Ocasio, 37, who was hit with a shotgun blast on a sidewalk in another Rochester neighborhood on the night of Dec. 23 and collapsed in a nearby driveway. He was found dead the next morning.
Authorities declined to say whether that killing was linked to the triple homicide three days later or provide a reason the four were targeted.
Clark dropped out of high school in the 10th grade.
"I can't get it out of my mind why a 17-year-old was involved in four cold-blooded murders," said Mayor Robert Duffy, a former police chief.
Clark was ordered held without bail and will return to court Friday with a lawyer, prosecutor Sandra Doorley said.
The stubbornly high homicide toll in Rochester dropped to 44 deaths last year from 50 in 2007 but, for much of the last two decades, the city of 207,000 has earned the unenviable title of "New York's murder capital."
Factors behind the city's high murder rate have included a lagging upstate economy, flourishing drug pipelines to New York City, Houston and Toronto, and a high dropout rate in city high schools, authorities say.