Zella ZionaAge 21
15 Oct 2015
Gaithersburg, Maryland (USA)
TDoR list ref: tgeu/15-Oct-2015/Zella Ziona
Zella was shot several times by Rico LeBlond, 22, in an alley behind the Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg. She was found with gunshot wounds to the head and groin areas.
In July 2017 Rico LeBlond was convicted of first-degree murder. However, a mistrial was later declared and it was not until September 2020 that LeBlond was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Montgomery County police said in charging documents at the time that LeBlond and Ziona had been friends since their school days, and that LeBlond had become upset when people found out about their friendship.
Rico Leblond, the man who last month admitted to killing a transgender woman in 2015, received a sentence Tuesday afternoon that amounts to 35 years in prison. It was the maximum sentence prosecutors sought under last month’s plea deal.
Tuesday’s hearing ends a first-degree murder case that continued through two trials, as well as a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that overturned Leblond’s conviction in the second trial.
Zella Ziona was killed in an alley behind Gaithersburg’s Lakeforest Mall in October 2015. The 21-year-old victim and Leblond had known each other since middle school.
Authorities had once believed Leblond was embarrassed when Ziona flirted with him, but they later said the motive was a gang turf dispute. The shooting, prosecutors said, followed an earlier altercation at the Lakeforest Transit Center.
TvT project: The Daily Mail & The Advocate, 17.10.2015