Trenton gunman murders Mason’s barber in 2013 robbery, gets convicted at trial

Zaire Smith

Zaire Smith

A city man has been convicted of murdering popular local barber Rasheen Jones during the commission of a July 2013 armed robbery.

Zaire K. Smith, 24, of Trenton, faces 30 years to life in prison after a jury found him guilty this week of first-degree felony murder and related offenses in the grisly slaying of Jones.

The murder occurred on July 23, 2013, when Smith and co-defendant Knovell Desmond targeted Jones in a senseless stickup. 

Jones, a 31-year-old father of three, was gunned down on East Stuyvesant Avenue while he was returning home from a trip he had made to a local convenience store, the victim of a robbery-turned-murder. He worked as a barber for 15 years and was remembered by family and friends as a hardworking family man.

Rasheen Jones, pictured here with his 7-year-old daughter, was shot to death on July 23 in Trenton.

Rasheen Jones, pictured here with his 7-year-old daughter, was shot to death on July 23, 2013, in Trenton.

Rasheen Jones

Rasheen Jones

Desmond, 27, of Trenton, pleaded guilty in the case on Dec. 17, 2014, confessing to first-degree robbery in a plea deal that calls for his murder charges and weapons offenses to be disposed of at sentencing, according to court records.

Smith took his case to trial, where a jury convicted him Monday of first-degree murder during the commission of a crime, two counts of first-degree armed robbery, two counts of second-degree possession of a firearm for unlawful purposes, and one count of second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun, according to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.

One month after the homicide, police filed complaint warrants charging both Smith and Desmond with murder and weapons offenses in the slaying of Jones. The U.S. Marshals Service New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force arrested Smith in Trenton on Aug. 22, 2013, and arrested Desmond in Lindenwold on Aug. 30, 2013, authorities said.

Knovell Desmond

Knovell Desmond

Both defendants have been jailed at the Mercer County Correction Center on $1 million cash bail since their arrests, court records show.

Represented by private attorney Alan D. Bowman, Smith is scheduled to be sentenced April 12 before Mercer County Superior Court Judge Thomas Brown. The convicted murderer is looking at decades upon decades of prison time for taking his case to trial and losing, marking another major victory for seasoned Supervising Assistant Prosecutor James Scott.

Desmond is represented by pool attorney Tina M. Frost and will be sentenced at an undetermined date for his self-confessed role in the deadly armed robbery.

Jones worked at Mason’s barber shop on Pennington Avenue. His violent death shocked the community.

“They killed a working man!” Mason’s co-worker James Jackson said in a July 2013 interview with The Trentonian, tears running down his face. “I hate that he left us, but now he is at peace. All he was doing was taking care of his kids and they killed him.”

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