On Tuesday, a Montgomery County Circuit Court jury found a Germantown man guilty of first-degree murder in the October 2015 death of a transgender woman in Montgomery Village.
The jury found Rico Hector Leblond, 22, of the 12700 block of Wisteria Drive in Germantown, for the murder of 21-year-old DeAndre Smith, also known as Zella Ziona. The returned the verdict after a weeklong trial presided over by Judge Terrance McGann. The jury found Leblond guilty of shooting Ziona in an alley between retail stores at 18312 Contour Road in Montgomery Village at about 5:49 pm on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015.
In a statement, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said that Leblond had connections to members of the gang known as the Hits Squad, which has been operating in Montgomery Village and portions of Germantown.
“Today’s conviction of Rico Leblond on first-degree murder is justice attained for Deandre Smith, a young man living as Zella Ziona,” said State’s Attorney John McCarthy. “This was a cold blooded execution of a person he knew since grade-school. He and his cohorts in the ‘Hit Squad’ gang must be put on notice that this kind of violence will not be tolerated. If you do this kind of crime we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
Leblond was arrested at about 8:00 pm on Oct. 16, 2015 at the Germantown Transit Center at 19945 Aircraft Drive by plain clothes police officers. Prosecutors believe that Leblond, who has a criminal history, and Ziona, who was open and public with her sexuality, had some sort of friendship, but Leblond had been embarrassed while at the Lakeforest Mall with friends sometime before the murder.
According to court documents, Ziona and Leblond had been “engaged in a simmering dispute that had been escalating.” Police charging documents stated that, Ziona and Leblond “had some sort of friendship and that information had now become public. Leblond was very upset with Smith when this information came to light. In the recent past, Leblond was with his crew at Lakeforest Mall, when Smith (Ziona) approached his group and began acting flamboyantly towards Leblond and greatly embarrassed Leblond in front of his peers.”
The charging documents state that detectives believe that Ziona was lured to the alley where Leblond was waiting to ambush her. Police were called to the Lakeforest Transit Center which is across Lost Knife Road from where the shooting took place, for a report of three to five black males fighting with a stick and knife. “Detectives believe that Smith (Ziona) was assaulted by a subject with a stick at that time. This event may have served as a precursor to lure Smith into the alleyway to fight,” said court documents.
According to the charging documents, witnesses told police that after initially shooting Ziona, Leblond walked over to her, stood over her, and fire more rounds into her body. Ziona suffered gunshot wounds to her head and groin area.
In January, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Anne Albright declared a mistrial for this case, the State’s Attorney’s Office said.
Leblond will be sentenced on Oct. 19 where he will face the penalty of life in prison.
Top photo courtesy MCPD. Photo by Germantown Pulse.