Germantown man found guilty in death of transgender woman

A Montgomery County jury has found a man guilty of first-degree murder in connection to the death of a transgender woman.

GERMANTOWN, MD (WUSA9) - A man has been convicted in connection to the murder of a transgender Montgomery County resident in 2015.

A jury found Rico LeBlond, of Germantown, guilty of first degree murder in the death of Zella Ziona. Ziona, who was originally known as Deandre Smith, identified as a woman at the time of her death.

Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said LeBlond shot Ziona to death in Montgomery Village after the two had gotten into a fight the day before.

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According to McCarthy, both LeBlond and Ziona had known each other for years prior to her murder. At the time of Ziona's death, various reports claimed LeBlond had shot her because he became embarrassed when their friendship was made known to the public. However, McCarthy told reporters Tuesday afternoon there was not enough information gathered during the investigation to substantiate any claim that a hate crime had been committed in the case.

WUSA9 reached out to Ziona's mother following the announcement of the verdict. She told WUSA9 she was happy with the jury's decision and the effort put forth by the state's attorney's office.

The defense attorney who represented LeBlond said he was disappointed in the decision. He added his client still has yet to consider whether to appeal the case.

Leblond is scheduled to be sentenced in October. He faces life behind bars.

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