After 18 years of remaining a mystery, arrests have been made in the murder of Run-DMC’s Jam Master Jay.
According to The New York Times, law enforcement identified the suspects as Ronald Washington, who’s already in prison, and Karl Jordan, Jr., who was arrested by ATF and the NYPD Sunday. According to authorities, Jay, born Jason Mizell, was killed in the midst of a cocaine deal gone wrong. Washington and Jordan were charged with murder while engaged in drug trafficking in a 10-count indictment unsealed on Monday in the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.
Jordan pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on Monday while Washington is expected to be arraigned later in the week. Both guys face minimum sentences of 20 years in prison if convicted.
Seth D. DuCharme, the acting U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, said that the authorities encountered serious challenges in pursuing the case since Mizell was killed in late 2002. Mr. DuCharme cited Queens detectives, the F.B.I. and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for their persistent investigation.
“This is a case about a murder that for nearly two decades has gone unanswered,” Mr. DuCharme said. “Today we begin to answer that question of who killed Jason Mizell and why.”
According to court documents filed on Monday, Washington and Jordan broke into Mizell’s studio on Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens, at around 7:30 p.m on Oct. 30, 2002. The both of them were armed. As Washington forced somebody inside the studio to the ground at gunpoint, the court documents say Jordan fired a bullet into Mizell’s head, killing him almost instantly.
“They walked in and murdered him in cold blood,” DuCharme said.
Prosecutors said that the two guys had “executed” Mizell after he tried to exclude them from “a multi-kilogram, multistate narcotics transaction.” In July 2002, just months before the murder, court documents say Mizell had received around 10 kilos of cocaine “on consignment” from a Maryland supplier. Washington and Jordan were set to be partners in the deal, but an undisclosed dispute caused Mizell to threaten to cut them out, according to court documents.
“There was a beef — it didn’t go as planned,” one official explained.
Mr. Washington, 56, is currently in federal prison serving a sentence for six robberies. Meanwhile,Jordan, 36, was arrested on Sunday. A law enforcement official told The Times that two witnesses in the case are cooperating with the government.
Federal prosecutors first accused Washington of being involved in Mizell’s murder back in 2007 when he was convicted in the robbery case and sentenced to 210 months in prison, according to Susan Kellman, his lawyer at the time. Although prosecutors attempted to use the murder accusation as a move to raise his sentence, Ms. Kellman said she never took it seriously.
“I had a sense that somebody whispered something in their ear to get themselves out of trouble,” she said, adding that Mr. Washington had always insisted he was not the killer. “When he heard the allegation, he was laughing, he said, ‘Good one,’” she explained.
In the weeks and months that followed Mizell’s killing at age 37, detectives entertained a number of explanations, including it stemmed from a grudge against the rapper 50 Cent, who was a protégé of Jam Master Jay’s. This theory was later tossed.
Investigators who looked into Mizell’s business and personal relationships struggled to find a motive and questioned why someone might want to kill a man who had not embraced notable rivalries with other people in the industry. The case went cold a couple years later, but then reopened in 2016.
Mizell’s older brother, Marvin Thompson, explained in a 2016 interview that his brother believed he had nothing to show for all the hard work he dedicated to his career, and he wanted to severe ties with those around him.
“‘I’ve been doing this music all this time and I don’t have nothing to show for it,’” Mr. Thompson recalled his brother saying. “‘I got all these leeches on me.’”
Thompson, who passed away in 2018, remained convinced that the shooting involved people close to Mizell, including a few who were among four people in the studio that night.
“I’d like to know the truth,” he said. “You hear so many different speculations — drugs, jealousy. I need to know who and why. That’s the major answer right there. Then I can have peace in my spirit.”
Jam Master Jay spent several of his childhood years in the Queens neighborhood of Hollis, which has a rich hip hop history. His legacy will live on as the acclaimed DJ for Run-DMC. His studio has been converted into the Hall of Fame studio owned by a new company that has maintained Jay’s legacy via painted murals and several Run-DMC memorabilia that adorns the walls.