Germantown Man Guilty of Murder

Rico Leblond | MCPD

A 22-year-old Germantown man was found guilty of first-degree murder Tuesday in the October 2015 death of a transgender woman, the State’s Attorney’s Office said.

Rico Leblond will be sentenced on Oct. 19 where he will face the penalty of life in prison.

The victim, Deandre Smith, 21, was living as Zella Ziona.

She was found about 5:49 p.m. Oct. 15, 2015, by Montgomery Village District officers behind 18312 Contour Road, a police statement said at the time. She was in an alley that separates the Montgomery Village Plaza and the Montgomery Village Crossing shopping centers, police said. Suffering from an apparent gunshot wound to her body, she was taken to an area hospital where she died of her injuries, police said.

In January, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Anne Albright declared a mistrial for this case, the State’s Attorney’s Office said. The new jury returned the guilty verdict after a weeklong trial that was presided over by the Judge Terrance McGann.

Leblond and Zella Ziona were known to be friends, and before the murder the two had argued, the State’s Attorney’s Office said. With the help of others, Leblond lured Ziona into an alleyway for a fight using sticks and knives where she was later shot multiple times.

Leblond was arrested at the Germantown Transit Station, the police report says. In the report, Leblond told police he didn’t know the locations of Gaithersburg or the Lakeforest Mall, nor had he ever been there.

Leblond’s attorney, David Felsen, said: “We are disappointed with the jury’s verdict. We respect their service.”

He said he believed there was substantial evidence that created reasonable doubt that Mr. Leblond is the one who shot Ziona.

During the trial, two witnesses were presented who saw the shooting, but only one identified Leblond as the shooter. Felsen said the defense did not believe the witness was credible.

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Douglas Tallman

About Douglas Tallman

Reporter with 35 years experience throughout Maryland. Reach me at dtallman@mymcmedia.org or via Twitter at @MCM-Doug

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