(WASHINGTON) — A 20-year-old Maryland man accused of shooting a transgender woman to death is in custody this weekend, and police say the suspect and the victim had “some degree of friendship” before the alleged murder.
DeAndre Smith, who identified herself as Zella Ziona, was shot Thursday while in a service alley behind a shopping center in Montgomery Village, about 25 miles north of Washington D.C., the Montgomery County Police said.
Ziona, 21, died from several gunshot wounds, police said.
Rico Hector Leblond, 20, was arrested in connection with Ziona’s murder Friday night, according to police.
“Investigators learned that Ziona and Leblond knew each other and had some degree of friendship prior to Ziona’s murder,” the police said in a news release.
The police aren’t elaborating on their friendship at this time, Montgomery County Police Capt. Paul Starks told ABC News on Saturday.
“This is a horrific crime and a tragedy for those who knew Zella,” Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said in a statement released before Leblond’s arrest. “As with all homicides in Montgomery County, we have detectives working around the clock to thoroughly and completely investigate this murder.”
Leblond has been charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bond, police said.
When asked about possible additional charges, including a hate crime charge, Starks told ABC News: “Investigators have to look at more of the circumstances. And then they will meet with members of our state’s attorney’s office and a decision about a hate crime charge will be made at that point.”
A bond review for Leblond was set for Oct. 19 in Rockville. It was unclear whether he had an attorney.
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