Nearly two years ago, 22-year-old Rico LeBlond of Germantown gunned down 21-year-old Zella Ziona near a Maryland shopping mall. Now, that suspect has been found guilty of first-degree murder for the slaying. Detectives working on the case confirmed that the suspect and victim knew each other for years.
Just months before the shooting, Ziona had made the transition from male to female. Before becoming Zella Ziona, the victim was known as DeAndre Smith. Authorities confirmed that Ziona was shot while in a service alley located near the rear of a Montgomery Village shopping center. The medical examiner went on to confirm that the victim died of multiple gunshot wounds.
Authorities claim LeBlond became embarrassed when Ziona flirter with him in front of colleagues. Then, LeBlond lured the 21-year-old to an alley and shot her several times. In January of this year, LeBlond went to trial, but that trial subsequently ended in a mistrial.
Defense attorneys were able to persuade the jury by detailing the different accounts giving by several witnesses. Jurors were deadlocked with ten in favor of a conviction and two against, forcing Judge Ann Albright to declare a mistrial. Witness accounts differed in terms of describing the person with the firearm that was fleeing the scene shortly after the shooting.
In the second trial, LeBlond was unable to escape justice. Now, the 22-year-old man is facing a maximum life sentence.