Five years after the shocking murder of legendary DJ Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC, theories and emotions continue to swirl. They’ve heated up in recent months and culminate this week, as MTV News presents Randy Allen, one of the witnesses to the murder, speaking with Marvin Thompson, Jay’s brother, about the tragedy for the first time in five years.
While police have not named a suspect in the murder and no arrests have been made, news about evidence and motives continues to emerge.(Click here for photos of the “24/7” studio and key figures.)
As the first installment of a three-part series rolling out this week — culminating in the first conversation between Jay’s brother and Randy Allen, the DJ’s former business partner, since the murder — MTV News has compiled a timeline of the events surrounding the murder.
October 30, 2002, 6:00 p.m.: Jay arrives at his 24/7 Studio in Queens, New York, to work on some material for Rusty Waters, one of the acts signed to his label. Waiting for things to get started, he sits on a couch in the studio’s lounge and plays a few games of “Madden 2002” with his friend Uriel “Tony” Rincon, 25. According to Rincon, Jay brings out a pistol and places it on the couch next to them, which makes the studio’s receptionist and Jay’s assistant, Lydia High, nervous. She asks him to put it away when she comes in a short time later to discuss Jay’s schedule. Randy Allen, a member of Rusty Waters and a longtime friend of Jay’s, arrives at the studio soon after, along with a friend known as Mike B., and the pair go into another room to listen to demo tapes by an aspiring artist affiliated with Jay’s production company.
October 30, 2002, 7:30 p.m.: According to Rincon, his cell phone rings around this time, and as he reaches down to answer it, he hears footsteps. It is unknown how many people are involved, but the assailant or assailants walk by High’s desk, telling her to get on the ground, and then greet Jay. The DJ reportedly embraces and/or slaps hands with his shooter, who appears to have been buzzed into the studio by High, indicating that the DJ knows his assailant or assailants. According to Rincon, the shooter opens fire, striking him in the leg and Jay, 37, fatally in the back of the head . Though Allen, Mike B., Rincon and High are all at the studio that night, reportedly none of them witness the actual shooting or see who pulled the trigger. Someone from the control room where Allen and Mike B. are working reportedly follows the gunmen as they leave and fires a weapon at them.
November 2002: Theories begin to emerge about the possible motives for the murder, including a debt owed to an old neighborhood acquaintance, revenge by disgruntled rappers with whom Jay had worked and who may have killed him over a disputed music publishing advance, or even a possible connection to 50 Cent, who had been a protégé of Jay’s.
November 10, 2002: The New York Post reports that Ronald “Tinard” Washington, an associate of Jay’s, may have served as a lookout while the DJ was shot. Washington is believed to have tipped off the killers when Jay arrived at his 24/7 Studio and then waited outside while the perpetrators committed the crime. The man believed to be an accomplice to Jay’s murder is thought to be hiding out in Washington, D.C. He was only identified as “a convicted drug dealer.” The paper also says that Jam Master Jay may have been killed for a dispute over money, and names Curtis Scoon — who had allegedly been feuding with Jay — as the prime suspect in the investigation and the man wanted by police for questioning. Among the theories is that Jay owed a debt to Scoon and was killed following an argument over the money.
December 12, 2002: Jay’s longtime friend, Randy Allen, who was present in the studio the night of the murder, denies reports that he was involved in the slaying and had set up Jay in an attempt to cash in on a $500,000 life insurance policy. “You can’t believe everything you read. That’s a cruel thing to do to Jam Master Jay,” Allen later told MTV News.
April 2003: Several Queens residents say they know who killed Jay but are afraid to go to police with the information out of fear. “Honestly, I think the police know what happened but they just don’t want to see justice done,” neighborhood resident Olivia Jackson says. “I know who killed him because I’m in the streets. If I know, then I’m pretty sure they do too.”
June 19, 2003: An investigator tells MTV News that police are again looking into reports that Allen may have been involved in the murder. The news comes days after Jay’s mother, Connie Mizell, told New York’s Daily News that she was upset she had not heard from Allen since the DJ’s slaying and about reports he wasn’t cooperating with police. “That hurts me more than words will ever say,” she told the paper. “All of these years, [Jay] and Randy have been friends. We were all as close as close can be, and I haven’t seen Randy since my Jason was killed. You’re his friend for 20 years and you don’t want to talk to the police about what happened? You don’t come to my house after he died? You want to say you don’t know anything?” Police dismissed, however, another report that same week that the murder may have resulted from a deadly love triangle between Jay, his wife, Terri Corley-Mizell, and Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, an alleged neighborhood drug kingpin.
The Jam Master Jay Reports
Part 1: The story so far: A timeline of events surrounding Jam Master Jay’s death and a list of the key figures.
Part 2 : A conversation with Randy Allen who reacts to recent developments in the case and offers to speak with Jay’s brother, Marvin Thompson.
Part 3: Randy Allen and Marvin Thompson speak about the murder for the first time in five years.
For full coverage of the ongoing Jam Master Jay case, see The Jam Master Jay Reports.
October 23, 2003: The Mizell family tells MTV News that they are planning to hire a private detective because of its frustration with the slow pace of the investigation into the case. The family also puts up its own $500,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of JMJ’s murderer. That week, The New York Post reported that Lydia High — Randy Allen’s sister and a close friend of Jay’s who was present at the 24/7 Studio the night of the murder — had come forward to police and fingered a triggerman in the murder. The NYPD denied the report.
October 29, 2003: New York’s Newsday reports that Jay was heavily in debt at the time of his death, owing as much as $500,000 in taxes. The red ink was so deep, according to the paper, that Mizell’s wife had to take on a job at Banana Republic to help pay the bills.
April 2007: The Boston Herald reports that an unnamed witness told police that Ronald “Tinard” Washington, 43, was an accessory to the murder of Jay. The news comes a week after Washington was convicted of six armed robberies for holdups he committed in November 2002. The witness said that Washington confessed to his role in Jay’s murder, as well as the 1995 murder of Randy “Stretch” Walker, a close associate of late rapper Tupac Shakur. Washington told the paper he expected to be charged as an accessory in both murders, but denied being involved in either slaying.
October 29, 2007: Queens record store owner William “The Mayor” Pittman takes MTV News on a tour of Jay’s 24/7 studio , which had been sealed off until recently. “It was a disaster,” Pittman says of the dire state of the studio following the police investigation into the murder. “The floors were [torn] up, all the carpet was ripped up. The walls were down, all of the wall panels were taken down. You could tell that a lot had [happened here] before we actually obtained it. It was really disturbing how it was left; it was very messed up construction-wise.” Pittman shows MTV reporters the spot where JMJ was shot and reveals a treasure trove of artifacts he’d found in the studio, including old digital tapes with “50 Cent” and “Onyx” written on them, as well as several pairs of JMJ’s Adidas sneakers.
November 5, 2007: A Daily News story is published in which Allen reveals to the newspaper that Lydia High said the gunman, still not identified, had a telltale tattoo on his neck and that he hugged JMJ before pulling the trigger. In the interview, Allen also told the paper that he had fully cooperated with investigators and that he was furious Rincon had refused to identify the killer.
November 13, 2007: Allen tells MTV News he wants the same thing JMJ’s family wants — closure — and says he’s not the “bad guy” in the tragic story. “As far as I’m concerned, everybody that was there and hasn’t said anything had something to do with it,” Mizell’s brother, Marvin Thompson, said in a Daily News article the previous week. Allen tells MTV News that he has been trying to figure out who killed Mizell for the past five years and insists he did not witness the murder, but that he has his own theory on who the murderer is — someone who was very close to Mizell and his family.
November 25, 2007: After five years of silence, witness Rincon finally comes forward and tells the Daily News that Jay had a pistol with him the night of the murder, and that he placed it on the arm of the couch they were sitting on while playing video games, suggesting that the DJ suspected he was a marked man. Rincon said Jay knew his killer and that, “Had there been immediate animosity or if there was a problem, they wouldn’t have been that close. … His gun was right there. … He would’ve been blazing.” At some point, Rincon said his phone rang and as he bent down to pick it up off the floor, he heard footsteps and heard Jay say, “Oh, sh–” and then gunshots rang out. Shot in the leg, Rincon turned to see Jay facedown on the floor with a gunshot wound to the head and the killer, wearing a dark sweater, running out of the studio. He claimed he never saw the killer’s face.
November 30, 2007: Allen gets into an emotional confrontation with members of Jay’s family at the J.A.M. Awards at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. At one point, the event’s producer told Allen to “Get out!” and a large group of men took off in search of Allen to remove him from the venue. Just before the uproar, Allen and Thompson had crossed paths for the first time since Jay’s funeral and the two men agreed to speak at a later time.
December 2007 Allen and Thompson meet and speak in front of MTV News’ cameras: Check back as our reports on Jam Master Jay’s murder continue Tuesday and Thursday.
Randy Allen: A member of the Jay-produced hip-hop duo Rusty Waters, as well as Jay’s friend and business partner, he was in the studio the night of the murder. Named in a number of news accounts as a possible suspect whose motive may have been to collect on an insurance policy, Allen has denied any involvement in the killing.
Lydia High: The receptionist at the 24/7 Studio who reportedly was the first to be confronted by the murderers and Allen’s sister.
Derrick Parker: Former New York City police officer, the “hip-hop cop,” co-author of “Notorious C.O.P.: The Inside Story of the Tupac, Biggie, and Jam Master Jay Investigations From the NYPD’s First “Hip-Hop Cop.”
Uriel “Tony” Rincon: The man who was sitting on a couch playing video games with Jay when the DJ was shot, and who was shot in the leg during the assault. Rincon reportedly got tangled up with the shooter as he tried to flee the scene.
Curtis Scoon: A onetime suspect in the shooting who has never been arrested by police.
Boe Skagz: (Real name: Rodney Jones) Jay’s nephew, the other member of the Jay-produced hip-hop duo Rusty Waters and who was allegedly in the studio the night of the murder.
Marvin Thompson: Jam Master Jay’s brother.
Ronald “Tinard” Washington: A convicted armed robber who allegedly confessed to Jay’s murder, according to a witness, as well as the 1995 murder of Tupac Shakur associate Randy “Stretch” Walker; Washington has denied being involved in either slaying.
For full coverage of the Jam Master Jay case, see the Jam Master Jay Reports.