NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly two decades after the slaying of Run-DMC star Jam Master Jay, federal prosecutors said Monday they have solved one of New York City’s most enduring mysteries, charging two men from his neighborhood with murder and suggesting that the hip-hop artist — celebrated for his anti-drug stance — was ambushed over a cocaine deal.
The suspects were identified in court papers as Ronald Washington, 56, who is currently serving a federal prison sentence stemming from a string of robberies while on the run from police after Jay’s 2002 death, and Karl Jordan Jr., 36, who is also charged with engaging in a cocaine distribution conspiracy in 2017.
Jason “Jay” Mizell, known professionally as Jam Master Jay, formed Run-DMC with Joseph “Run” Simmons and Darryl “DMC” McDaniel in the early 1980s. Together, they helped take hip-hop mainstream with hits like “It’s Tricky” and the Aerosmith remake collaboration “Walk This Way.”
Jay’s death, following the long unsolved slayings of rappers Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas in 1996 and Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace in Los Angeles in 1997, shook the hip-hop world. Chuck D of Public Enemy compared his death to that of John Lennon. More than $60,000 in rewards was offered, but witnesses refused to come forward and the case languished.
“This is a case about a murder that for nearly two decades had gone unanswered,” Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme said at a news conference announcing the charges. “Today, we begin to answer that question of who killed Jason Mizell, and why, and we’re confident that we can prove those charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”