It’s been ten years since DJ Jam Master Jay was gunned down in his New York recording studio, but the case of his murder remains unsolved as the pioneering hip-hop trio he was once a part of, Run-DMC, goes back on tour.
“I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since Jay’s death,” Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, now a part of a duo, said to the New York Daily News in a statement. “That’s crazy. It seems like I just saw him yesterday.”
McDaniels and Rev. Joe “Run” Simmons kicked off their tour last month.
NYPD investigators have grown frustrated over the years after chasing down many leads, none of which have resulted in an arrest.
“We never really had a good lead,” the case’s head detective, Vincent Santangelo, said. “Nobody would or nobody could tell us the who or what. We’re still looking for that person.”
Jam Master Jay, whose real name was Jason Mizell, had arrived at the studio on October 30, 2002, just hours before he was killed. Police say the people inside the building that evening all gave an account of what happened, but no one identified the gunman or his accomplice.
The Daily News gives the play-by-play:
After packing some equipment for a show in Philadelphia the next day, Mizell got a bite to eat and took a seat on a couch at the rear of the studio. His pal, Uriel (Tony) Rincon, sat next to him and the pair began playing a video game.
Mizell placed a .45-caliber pistol on the arm rest.
A short time later, Mizell’s assistant, Lydia High, entered the cramped studio to go over his itinerary. High’s brother, Randy Allen – Mizell’s longtime pal and business partner – soon came in with two friends, but they shut themselves in the control room at the front of the studio.
Everyone had been in the room for less than an hour when a man dressed in black, possibly wearing a hat, stepped in and gave Mizell a hug about 7:30 p.m. But after the short embrace, the man pulled out a .40-caliber handgun.
“Oh, s—-,” was all a witness heard Mizell say before a shot rang out.
The bullet pierced Rincon’s left leg. Then, a second shot hit Mizell in the head, killing him before he hit the floor.
The killer and his accomplice, who was standing outside the door, both sprinted out of the two-story building and disappeared.
The NYPD is promising a $60,000 reward if someone is identified and convicted, which Santangelo believes will help close the case.
Police do have one suspect in mind, though: career criminal Ronald Washington, who’s currently serving 17 years for armed robbery. Investigators suspected Washington was either the lookout or the gunman after he allegedly confessed his part in the killing to an ex-girlfriend.
Lydia High, Mizell’s assistant who was in the studio with him that night, also initially confirmed Washington as one of the killers, but she later withdrew her statement.
Sources say the case has been difficult to shut close because of reluctant witnesses and bad press. They also say the murder may have been a result of a hit ordered by Curtis Scoon, an old friend Mizell refused to pay back for a years-long drug debt.
Neither Scoon or Washington have ever been charged in connection with the case.
“The past 10 years has been really hard,” Marvin Thompson, Mizell’s brother, who’s also convinced Washington was one of the killers, said. “There’s still so many unanswered questions … I pray that someone will step up and close this case and give us some peace.”
“It’s frustrating,” he added. “But the fact that he’s in jail … I guess that’s some kind of closure.”
Mizzell’s mother, Connie Mizell-Perry, believes karma will have its way in the end.
“One of these days, you’re going to think you have it made and someone is going to tap you on the shoulder and say, ‘Gotcha!’” she said.
“He impacted other people’s lives and that’s the Jay I loved and respected,” McDaniels said. “But spiritually, he’s always with me. His presence is felt as strongly today as it was the night he passed away.”