Trenton man accused of killing barber rejects plea deal

A Trenton man suspected of killing of a city barber in 2013 has rejected prosecutors’ final plea offer and will head to trial.

Zaire Smith is the only remaining co-defendant in the murder of 20-year-old Rasheen Jones, who was shot in the head July 23, 2013, in the city’s West Ward, following a botched robbery, authorities have said.

Jones had worked for 15 years cutting hair at Mason’s barbershop before he was gunned down while walking home from a convenience store. He left behind two daughters, aged 5 and 7.

Smith was arrested alongside Knovell Desmond in connection with the murder. However, Desmond resolved murder charges by pleading guilty to two counts of robbery and a weapons count in exchange for a 10-year state prison sentence.

It remains to be seen whether Desmond will testify against Smith at trial as prosecutors did not reveal at his guilty plea whether cooperation was required as part of his deal.

That leaves Smith, who has “consistently maintained his innocence, said his attorney, Alan Bowman.

To the contrary, prosecutors have said Smith was the one who pulled the trigger. On Monday, Smith rejected prosecutors’ plea offer calling for a 25-year prison sentence for aggravated manslaughter.

Bowman said at the hearing he uncovered “substantial information” during his investigation of the murder that he contends will exonerate his client. He did elaborate in open court on the nature of the information, but shared it during a private off-the-record conversation with Assistant Prosecutor James Scott.

Smith is expected back in court for a pretrial conference in November.

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