Conviction in Death of Md. Transgender Woman

WASHINGTON — A Germantown, Maryland, man has been convicted in the 2015 killing of a transgender woman whom police say he had known for years.

Rico LeBlond, 22, was convicted of first-degree murder Tuesday in the killing of Zella Ziona, 21, behind the Lakeforest Mall, in Gaithersburg, on Oct. 15, 2015. He faces a maximum of life in prison.

The Montgomery County police said in charging documents at the time that LeBlond and Ziona, who was born DeAndre Smith, had been friends, and that LeBlond had become upset when people found out about their friendship.

Not long before the night Ziona was killed, she had begun “acting flamboyantly” toward LeBlond, which embarrassed him in front of his crew, according to the charging documents. On the night of Oct. 15, she was lured into the alley, and LeBlond shot her several times, the documents read.

LeBlond was arrested the next night at the Germantown Transit Center.

This was LeBlond’s second trial; the first was declared a mistrial in January of this year. LeBlond’s lawyer had argued at the time that several witnesses had given different accounts of how Ziona had died.

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