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Vigil honors transgender woman murdered in Gaithersburg | News

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Vigil honors transgender woman murdered in Gaithersburg

GERMANTOWN, MD- Dozens of family and friends of Zella Ziona, the transgender woman gunned down in a Gaithersburg alley on Thursday, gathered Sunday to mourn her loss, and spread a message: stop the hate.

On Saturday, Montgomery County police arrested Rico LeBlond, 20, and charged him with first-degree murder in Ziona’s death. In charging documents, police lay out embarrassment that a friendship between LeBlond and Ziona had been publicly exposed as a possible motive in her killing. Hate crime charges have not yet been filed or ruled out.

“In my heart, I feel like that’s what it was,” said Jeron Jackson, Zella’s uncle, when asked if he believed the murder was a hate crime.

See photos from the vigil

At Sunday’s vigil, friends and family shared stories of Zella. Many referred to her by her legal name, DeAndre Smith, using Zella almost as a middle name.

“To me he was always going to be DeAndre. I told him that. Regardless of makeup, hair. I’m looking at you as my nephew,” Jackson said. “I’ve still got the same love for you as anything.”

“Lord, most of all I thank you that he wasn’t ashamed to walk in his walk,” said one family member leading a prayer. “He knew who he was, and he didn’t care about who didn’t like him.”

LeBlond will appear in court on Monday morning. Family members interviewed Sunday night said they were still deciding whether or not to attend. 

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