The question of who killed Jam Master Jay, the D.J. for the pioneering rap group Run-DMC, has remained a mystery for nearly 18 years.
But federal prosecutors on Monday afternoon announced the indictment of two men whom investigators have long suspected of participating in killing the D.J., whose real name was Jason Mizell, inside a Queens recording studio.
The men, Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan, Jr., were charged with murder while engaged in drug trafficking in a 10-count indictment unsealed Monday.
The indictment says the two men “together with others, with malice aforethought, did unlawfully kill Jason Mizell, also known as ‘Jam Master Jay.’”
They walked in and murdered him in cold blood,” Seth D. DuCharme, the acting United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said at a news conference on Monday afternoon.
Mr. DuCharme said without giving specifics that the authorities had faced challenges in pursuing the case
This is a case about a murder that for nearly two decades has gone unanswered,” he said. “Today we begin to answer that question of who killed Jason Mizell and why.”
On October 30, 2002, new court papers say, Mr. Washington and Mr. Jordan, both armed, broke into Mr. Mizell’s studio on Merrick Boulevard in Queens. As Mr. Washington forced a person in the studio to the ground, the papers say, Mr. Jordan fired a bullet into Mr. Mizell’s head, killing him almost instantly
Prosecutors claim that the two had “executed” Mr. Mizell after he sought to exclude them from “a multi-kilogram, multistate narcotics transaction.” In July 2002, just months before the murder, court papers say, Mr. Mizell had received about 10 kilos of cocaine “on consignment” from a supplier in Maryland. Mr. Washington and Mr. Jordan were supposed to have been his partners in the deal, the papers say, but after a dispute, Mr. Mizell threatened to cut them out.
“There was a beef — it didn’t go as planned,” one official said.
Mr. Washington, 56, is currently serving a federal prison sentence for robbery. Mr. Jordan, 36, was taken into custody on Sunday.
A law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said two witnesses were now cooperating in the case.
Mr. Mizell, who was 37, was killed on Oct. 30, 2002. That evening, he had been playing video games in the lounge of a second-floor studio in Jamaica, Queens.
Two men entered the building, and one of them, who was wearing a mask, fatally shot Mr. Mizell in the head, officials had previously said.
Detectives explored several possible explanations for the shooting, including that it stemmed from a grudge against the rapper 50 Cent, who was a protégé of Jam Master Jay’s. That theory was later discounted.
Investigators who reviewed Mr. Mizell’s business and personal relationships struggled with finding a motive and wondered why someone might want to kill a man who had not embraced prominent rivalries with others.
The case went cold a few years later, but was reopened in 2016 by a police cold-case squad.
Mr. Mizell’s older brother, Marvin Thompson, said in an interview that year that his brother felt he had nothing to show for all the work he had put into his career, and he wanted to cut 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.’”
Mr. Thompson said his brother “felt it was time to shake everybody loose.”
Mr. Thompson, who died in 2018, remained convinced that the killing involved people close to Mr. Mizell, including some 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.”
Mr. Mizell spent several years of his childhood in the Queens neighborhood of Hollis, a neighborhood that has a rich hip-hop legacy.
He gained nationwide fame as the pioneering D.J. of the hip-hop trio Run-DMC, which included Joseph Simmons, known as Run, and Darryl McDaniels, known as DMC.
In the years before Mr. Mizell’s death, he increasingly embraced the role of a local talent scout, listening to demo tapes of 14- and 15-year-old rappers and making suggestions. In 2002, he founded the Scratch D.J. Academy, where students learned D.J. techniques
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