Defendant in 2014 Cedarwood Apartments slaying is fit to stand trial, judge rules

Rontarus Washington Jr. appears in Douglas County District Court Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, for a preliminary hearing to determine if there's enough probable cause to bind him over on a charge of first-degree murder in connection with the slaying of Justina Altamirano Mosso.

Rontarus Washington is mentally fit to stand trial for the 2014 murder of a young woman at Lawrence’s Cedarwood Apartments, a judge ruled this week.

Douglas County District Court Judge James McCabria on Tuesday found Washington, 21, competent to proceed to a jury trial in the case, Cheryl Wright Kunard, assistant to the DA, said in an email. She said Washington’s next hearing in the case, a status conference, is scheduled for Dec. 11.

The judge’s decision followed multiple hearings in which Washington’s competency was debated.

His defense attorneys argued he was not able to stand trial, based on a Lawrence clinical psychologist’s conclusion that Washington’s cognitive abilities were insufficient to understand court proceedings. A court-ordered competency evaluation, conducted over two months this summer at Larned State Hospital, concluded Washington was competent to stand trial.

On Nov. 9, 2014, 19-year-old Justina Altamirano Mosso was discovered dead in a bloody bathroom of an apartment leased by her estranged husband at 1727 W. 24th St. Mosso had been bludgeoned and stabbed repeatedly in the face, head and neck. Police believe she was killed two days earlier, on Nov. 7, 2014.

Photos of Justina Altamirano Mosso, 19, provided by the Lawrence Police Department.

The case against Washington, who lived down the hall, was opened in January 2015, after he was arrested in Mississippi. He is charged with one count of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated burglary.