Trial now set to begin 4 years after man’s arrest in slaying of woman at Cedarwood Apartments

photo by: File photos

Rontarus Washington Jr. is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated burglary in the Nov. 7, 2014, death of 19-year-old Justina Altamirano Mosso at Cedarwood Apartments, 1727 W. 24th St.

Rontarus Washington Jr. was arrested Jan. 15, 2015, in Mississippi and, after extradition proceedings, booked into the Douglas County Jail on March 16, 2015.

After yet another delay, Washington’s trial is now scheduled to begin more than four years after his arrest. The new date is March 25, 2019.

Washington has already been in custody longer than any other current inmate at the Douglas County Jail.

He is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated burglary in the Nov. 7, 2014, death of 19-year-old Justina Altamirano Mosso, originally from Mexico. He’s accused of stabbing and bludgeoning her to death in the bathroom of her estranged husband’s apartment at Cedarwood Apartments, 1727 W. 24th St. Washington also lived at Cedarwood at the time.

The repeated continuances of Washington’s trial have been primarily driven by his defense team, and that was the case this time as well.

On Wednesday, Douglas County District Court Judge James McCabria set the new trial date after approving a request from appointed attorneys Angela Keck and Adam Hall.

They’re pursuing an alternative perpetrator theory — suggesting Mosso’s estranged husband is the murderer instead of their client — and “despite diligent investigation” cannot find and serve warrants on several material witnesses needed to support that, Keck and Hall wrote in their request to delay the trial.

In addition, the defense attorneys said they received just last week “highly exculpatory evidence” — which they did not explain — that needs further review; they need more time to review and investigate translations of reports in Spanish that are still being completed, which they are also providing to the state; and they need more time to prepare redacted audio and video evidence as well as explore “critical DNA evidence issues” for their case.

In court Wednesday, Washington told the judge that he would, again, agree to waive his right to a speedy trial.

In addition to hearing upon hearing about the admissibility of evidence and the credentials of potential witnesses, debate over whether Washington is mentally fit to stand trial ate up close to a full year of his time in custody.

After a local evaluation, a months-long stay and in-depth evaluation at Larned State Hospital, and multiple hearings arguing over exam results, the judge ruled that Washington was competent to stand trial.

Washington remains jailed on $750,000 bond.

Justina “Tina” Altamirano Mosso

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd


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