By Layne Lasseter & Max Cannon
Updated 6:20pm CST, November 29th, 2012
Hip-hop pioneers Run-DMC are back on tour — their first without the backbeat of the group, DJ Jam Master Jay, the victim of an unsolved slaying shrouded in mystery and lack of cooperation by witnesses.
The platinum-selling band — which brought hip-hop to the mainstream with hits like “It’s Tricky,” “King of Rock” and a remake of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” — kicked off a tour last month even as the NYPD remains frustrated the 2002 execution-style rubout of the hip-hop star, whose real name was Jason Mizell, remains stalled 10 years later.
Law enforcement sources, who at one time worked the case, said the people inside Mizell’s 24/7 recording studio provided a play-by-play account of the Oct. 30, 2002 murder — but everyone stopped short in identifying the gunman or his sidekick.
The 37-year-old turntable wizard — who stayed anchored near the hardscrabble Hollis neighborhood where he grew up — arrived at the studio just hours before the killing.
After packing some equipment for a show in Philadelphia the next day, Mizell got a bite to eat and took a seat on a couch at the rear of the studio. His pal, Uriel (Tony) Rincon, sat next to him and the pair began playing a video game.
Mizell placed a .45-caliber pistol on the arm rest.
A short time later, Mizell’s assistant, Lydia High, entered the cramped studio to go over his itinerary. High’s brother, Randy Allen – Mizell’s longtime pal and business partner – soon came in with two friends, but they shut themselves in the control room at the front of the studio.
Everyone had been in the room for less than an hour when a man dressed in black, possibly wearing a hat, stepped in and gave Mizell a hug about 7:30 p.m. But after the short embrace, the man pulled out a .40-caliber handgun.
“Oh, s—-,” was all a witness heard Mizell say before a shot rang out.
The bullet pierced Rincon’s left leg. Then, a second shot hit Mizell in the head, killing him before he hit the floor.
The killer and his accomplice, who was standing outside the door, both sprinted out of the two-story building and disappeared.
Santangelo, a 22-year vet, and his team spent years chasing scores of leads that sometimes brought him to cities across the country. No arrests have been made, but Santangelo believes that could change with the help of a good tipster — who can collect a $60,000 reward if there’s a conviction.
But the sources, who spoke to the News last week, said they’ve already fingered one of Mizell’s killers, but making an arrest been hampered by reluctant witnesses and bad press.
“We just never had enough to make it stick,” said one of the sources.
Investigators suspect career criminal Ronald Washington was either the lookout or the gunman. The hit was likely ordered after Mizell — who owed up to $500,000 to the IRS — refused to settle a decade-old drug debt with his old friend Curtis Scoon, the sources said.
Washington — who is serving a 17-year stint for armed robbery — allegedly confessed his role in the killing to a former girlfriend, authorities have said.
“She was credible. She was a witness who we vetted,” said one source. “We had enough to bring it to a judge.”
High, who allegedly buzzed the killers into Mizell’s studio, said Washington was one of the killers, but she later recanted.
“She (also) changed her story three or four times after,” another source said.
Neither Washington nor Scoon, who now lives in Georgia, was ever charged.
“As time goes by, he becomes less and less of a suspect,” said Scoon’s lawyer, Marvyn Kornberg. “He’s moved on with his life.”
The open case has left Mizell’s family shattered.
“The past 10 years has been really hard,” said the jam master’s brother, Marvin Thompson, 57. “There’s still so many unanswered questions. … I pray that someone will step up and close this case and give us some peace.”
Thompson, too, is convinced that Washington was one of Mizell’s killers.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “But the fact that he’s in jail … I guess that’s some kind of closure.”
Mizell’s 77-year-old mother, Connie Mizell-Perry, said she believes karma will eventually sneak up on the wanted men.
Speaking from her North Carolina home, she had one thing to say to the killers: “One of these days, you’re going to think you have it made and someone is going to tap you on the shoulder and say, ‘Gotcha!’”
For now, though, the focus is on Run DMC, the revived hip-hop trio, now a duo with no turntables behind their microphones. Partners Darryl (DMC) McDaniels and Joe (Run) Simmons soldier on.
“I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since Jay’s death,” McDaniels said in a statement to the Daily News. “That’s crazy. It seems like I just saw him yesterday.
“He impacted other people’s lives and that’s the Jay I loved and respected,” McDaniels added. “But spiritually, he’s always with me. His presence is felt as strongly today as it was the night he passed away.”